Rehab donates wheelchair to Leonia teen with cerebral palsy who had his stolen

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AJ Ross has the story.

A Leonia teen who has cerebral palsy and had his wheelchair stolen last month is getting a new state-of-the-art model, free of charge.

Police say two thieves stole the motorized custom chair from 14-year-old Courtney Machiri in front of his Broad Avenue home on July 14, while his mother was carrying him upstairs.

Surveillance video appeared to show one of the thieves taking the motorized wheelchair on a joyride, and 18-year-old Michael Peralta was later arrested and the wheelchair recovered.

After the theft, State Senator Kevin O'Toole had reached out to Quantum Rehab of Exeter, Pennsylvania, and offered to pay for a replacement at a cost of between $12,000 and $30,000.

"As a father, as a resident, as a citizen, I was really upset," O'Toole said. "We are so thankful to the community, to everyone who heard about Courtney's story and jumped into help. It was a story of humanity."

But Quantum Rehab GM Richard McLane offered to build the new wheelchair for free and would expedite the construction of the new power chair. But the investigation was ongoing at the time.

"As a parent, especially a parent of a special needs child, I didn't sleep much that night," Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe said. "We needed to get that wheelchair back."

Even after the arrest, Quantum Rehab pledged to build the new chair, as Marchiri had outgrown his existing model.

"It was so amazing, and I couldn't believe my ears," dad Kudzai Machiri said. "It really restored my faith in the community, and we love everyone here. Everyone knows Courtney."

He received the new chair at a ceremony late Tuesday morning.

"When it comes to disability, adversity always leads to opportunity," Quantum Rehab's Mark Smith said. "We knew that we had to get involved not just in restoring Courtney's mobility, but really in elevating Courtney's quality of life."

The model offers the latest in power chair technology and will allow him to interact with people and his environment in an elevated rather than seated position, and his ability to communicate with others will be enhanced, as will his ability to perform activities of daily living.
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newscerebral palsytheftnew jersey newsLeonia
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