Jessica Martin, mother of a disabled York County child who needs a wheelchair to play basketball, said she has seen the worst and best of what can happen to people all in the same week.
The wheelchair her 9-year-old son, Noah Lewis, uses to play basketball was inside their SUV which was stolen Tuesday morning from the family’s home near Clover.
The best has won, Martin said.
Someone with the Carolina Panthers NFL football team who heard about the theft anonymously donated money to replace the wheelchair so Noah can again shoot to win with his wheelchair team the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets, Martin said.
“The donation from the person from the Panthers, and the outpouring from so many other people after I posted it on Facebook, has just been amazing,” Martin said. “There are good people in the world. Great people. I thank them all so much.”
Noah, a fourth grader at Bethel Elementary School, has a spinal cord birth disability called Spina bifida. He plays point guard for the wheelchair team and played in the team’s last game in Alabama before the theft happened after the family came home.
After Martin and her mother reported the theft of the SUV with the specialty sports chair inside to York County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Martin spread the word on Facebook that her son’s only way to play basketball was gone. The chair cost about $2,000.
She gave an interview with Charlotte television station WBTV, which first reported the incident, and told everyone she knew.
“People were outraged, upset, that someone would take a child’s chair he needs for basketball,” Martin said.
The single mother started calling scrap yards and resale stores to see if anyone tried to bring in a wheelchair, but had no luck.
Neighbors, schoolmates, churches and others offered donations. Noah’s teammates offered to let him use their chairs for practice and play.
“People just wanted to help - and they did,” Martin said.
By Wednesday, the gift from someone with the Panthers organization came in - a replacement wheelchair fully paid.
Noah’s regular season for the nonprofit basketball team that operates on donations is over, but the team may qualify for the playoffs in Kentucky next month. If they do, Noah will be on the court in his new chair, his mother said.