Calgary mom pleads for return of stolen van used for son with disabilities

A Calgary mother is heartbroken after the wheelchair-accessible van she got last year was stolen from in front of her home.

Casey Neilson was a teenager when he started losing the use of legs.

The 33-year-old Calgarian was born with Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare neurological disease that robs people of their ability to move and speak. There is no cure.

“After he had spinal fusion therapy, the walking was gone,” said Cindy Neilson, Casey’s mom.

Cindy called it a “Godsend” when last year someone posted on Facebook that they were giving away a wheelchair-accessible van.

“They had fundraised to get a new one, which they did, and they were offering this for free. I snapped it up. Those things are like $50,000,” Cindy recalled.

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Cindy and Casey got a lot of use of out of the 2003 Ford Econoline van over the past year.

But on the morning of April 14, Cindy got a call from police saying it had been stolen from outside her apartment building just east of Macleod Trail by 55 Avenue and was used in several break and enters.

The licence plate was captured on surveillance video.

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“I told them: ‘I’m going to cry.’ It was so important to us,” Cindy said. “It’s like somebody took his legs. He can’t get out. It’s not great.
As a parent, you think you can fix things and sometimes you just can’t.”

A wheelchair-accessible van stolen from outside a Calgary apartment in April 2022. Courtesy: Midas

The van is still missing and so is Casey’s ability to get out.

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“I’m really discouraged,” Casey said. “It’s very frustrating.”

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On top of everything else, the day before the van was stolen, Cindy forked out $1,000 for repairs and because the van is nearly 20 years old, she didn’t have full insurance. She found out this week it wasn’t covered for theft.

“It was another blow because there’s no way to replace it,” Cindy said.

The van is dark blue in colour and was parked in front of 5610 3 Street S.W. when it was stolen.

A wheelchair-accessible van stolen from outside a Calgary apartment in April 2022. Courtesy: Midas

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