Leah, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, relies on her family’s wheelchair accessible Dodge Grand Caravan to get around as she uses a wheelchair. While attending her brother’s graduation from the U.S. Army School of Music, the family was left stranded when their van was stolen from the hotel parking lot. That’s where our Ride-Away Norfolk location came to the rescue.
“It was just a typical day at the store,” Norfolk General Manager Greg Stewart said. “The family called in and Certified Mobility Consultant Mike spoke to the family. He asked me a question about Kentucky plates and said there was an out of town family that needed to be picked up. We didn’t know too much about the situation at this point but of course, we wanted to help.”
The family’s van was stolen from its accessible parking space at a Norfolk hotel. They filed a missing vehicle report as soon as they released the van was missing. Police did not find glass at the scene and the van was not towed away. However, the family was stuck and unable to transport Leah.
“It was very important,” Sara, Leah’s mother, said. “She is pretty much stuck without it.”
Needing a reliable form of transportation, they came into the Norfolk Ride-Away store. Greg asked about their situation and what they were looking for.
“The family explained their story and we talked about their options,” Greg said. “They had already contacted someone about renting a van but knew the cost would be higher since they would have to bring the van back. They spoke to us about purchasing a new van, but that could be expensive especially since they already had a nice van. They knew they had to do something.”
Greg made several suggestions to the family.
“I told them we had just gotten a van in on trade,” Greg said. “It was not a new van but it ran great and I knew it would get them to Kentucky. I told them, even if your new van does not come back, the insurance will still take a while to settle and they need a way to get around. If the other van shows up, then you have two vans. I wanted to make sure they knew their options. So I showed them the used van we had and let them test drive it up the street.”
The family returned from their test drive appreciative for all the suggestions and options they had.
“They went into the back for a few minutes and then came out to give me a big hug and shake my hand,” Greg said. “They told us they would purchase the cheaper van and if their original van showed up, they could sell us back the used one. They were out of our store by noon with their vehicle. The entire process took about 2 hours.”
“We gave them numerous options because I felt like that was important,” Greg said. “We could have sold them a new van but that just did not seem the right thing to do with this situation. The family was in a tough spot, and I was fortunate that I had something in their price range. Sara called me and said that the TV station may be calling about the story. I made sure she knew we didn’t do what we did for the publicity. That’s when the story came out about this family’s stolen van.”
“Thankfully, their van has now been found,” Greg said. “I told the family we’d be happy to help with the next steps and we’ll see where that goes.”
The Police Department’s Forensic Unit is currently looking for fingerprints and investigating the van to figure out what happened. In the meantime, the family is happy to have a reliable means of transportation.
“I would absolutely do this for any other customer,” Greg said when he was interviewed by the television station. “Every single person we work with has a disability, some are more severe than others but this is our customer base. We deal with this every single day.”
This may be our team member’s jobs, but Sara and her family were still happy with the outcome.
Leah’s mom Sara said, “They [Ride-Away] are obviously used to dealing with people with disabilities and not in the market of taking advantage of people and they certainly could have taken advantage of us and they didn’t.”