It’s a sad, but unavoidable truth: Some people are just jerks.
I’m not talking about jerks who don’t use their turn signal or fail to scoop up their dog’s poop. I’m talking about the jerk-level behavior that quite literally leaves most people speechless. You know, like stealing a specially made adaptive tricycle belonging to a 12-year-old girl with special needs. Because yes — that really happened.
Charlotte Luther of Antioch, California had surgery to remove a brain tumor over a year ago and has experienced limited mobility as a result.
But even before the brain tumor, Charlotte’s mom Cate says “she wasn’t really stable.” Charlotte had issues with right-side balance prior to the brain tumor diagnosis and her autism caused her to have some trouble balancing on a regular bike.
“This was the first bike she’s ever had where she could actually ride it,” Cate adds. “She had this smile on her face, a sense of independence. She was just loving it.”
The special bike is also worth a pretty penny: It costs about $4,000. Charlotte’s family actually raised the money to buy it through a fundraising page with the Great Bike Giveaway, a national campaign that raises money for adaptive bikes for kids with special needs. Family and friends contributed to the fundraiser which enabled Charlotte to get this special bike, which comes with a back rest, a steering assist bar, and a pedal pulley system. The design makes it possible for Charlotte to maneuver the bike all on her own.
But last week, both Charlotte’s special bike and a regular bike belonging to her mom were stolen from their home while Charlotte was at the hospital. The family called the police and filed a report, but Cate tells Babble she didn’t hold out much hope that Charlotte’s bike would be found. In fact, she feared it had already been sold.
Little did she know though that the police officer who took the report had made it his personal mission to find Charlotte’s bike, no matter what.
Officer Dan Fachner of the Antioch Police Department scoured the surrounding area looking for the bike, even driving to the shopping centers near the Luther’s home to ask people if they’d seen it. Many of the people Officer Fachner spoke to reported having seen Charlotte riding the bike in the past, and that she “always seemed happy” when she was on it.
Finally, Officer Fachner’s commitment paid off when a woman reported seeing someone riding the bike in a nearby neighborhood. Sure enough, a 24-year-old man was cruising around on Charlotte Luther’s adaptive tricycle like he owned it, which we all know he did not.
The man’s initial response of “I just found it” didn’t fly with Officer Fachner — he called for backup, arranged for the thief to be transported to the local police station, and had the special bike transported back to its rightful owner.
I can’t say enough how glad I am that this story had a happy ending for Charlotte. No kid deserves to have their bike ripped off, and I think everyone can agree this is more than just a bike to Charlotte. That bike means freedom; it means she has the ability to maneuver in a way that otherwise, she’d be unable to do.
But as pleased that I am that this family didn’t have to go through the hassle of raising funds for another adaptive tricycle, my reaction as a human — and as the parent of a special-needs child who uses prosthetic equipment — is simply this: “What kind of person does this?”
Sure, maybe the thief didn’t understand what the bike was and had no clue there was a special story behind it. But I’m not sure that lack of information gives him a pass either way.
Cate Luther calls the return of her daughter’s bike a “miracle” and expresses awe and gratitude that so many people shared the original Facebook post asking for its safe return.
The moral of this story? To me, it’s this: There will always be bad guys in this world; but thankfully, there will also always be good guys — just like Officer Fachner, who was determined to find a little girl’s precious bike.
According to her mom, Charlotte herself is fond of the quote “Forgiveness is the only cure for revenge.” In many ways, I suppose we could probably all stand to borrow a page from Charlotte’s book.