A Claremont family is hoping the recent theft of their disabled son`s specialty beach wheelchair while help bring awareness and access to other disabled Californians.
Patrick Freeman's specialty wheelchair, which allowed him access to the beach and water, was stolen on Aug. 4 while he attended a sports camp in Seal Beach for people with disabilities.
"It's something that I never knew, never thought about until we were in this world of disability," said Cheri Freeman, Patrick's mother. "That it's hard, very hard to enjoy the beach when you're in a wheelchair."
The 26-year-old began seizing during the camp and his parents, Mike and Cheri Freeman, rushed him to the hospital. When they returned to their hotel the wheelchair, and the trailer it is stored in, were both gone.
The Freemans were living in Colorado when they received a call about their son in 2013. A driver ran a red light and hit Patrick while he was crossing the street, leaving him with a severe, traumatic brain injury.
The former Santa Monica College student awoke from a coma several months later. Mike and Cheri have been his primary caregivers since the accident.
The company that manufactures the beach wheelchairs has agreed to replace the stolen one, but the Freemans want to bring access to others as well.
"It's heart warming and very encouraging to see that people care about the story, care about what happened to Patrick and also care enough to want to help other people enjoy the beach," said Cheri Freeman.
Sheila Stevenson, a friend of the family, created a YouCaring page to help raise $20,000 to replace Patrick’s chair and purchase 10 new beach wheelchairs.
The family wants to donate the new wheelchairs to beaches around Los Angeles.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call Seal Beach police at 562-799-4100.