The family of Newcastle eight-year-old Elijah Parsons have issued a desperate appeal for the return of the SmartDrive wheelchair adaptation
It was the gift which was supposed to give Elijah Parsons his independence.
The Chronicle Sunshine Fund donated the Kingston Park Primary School pupil, who lives with spina bifida, with a battery-powered motor to assist him in his wheelchair.
The SmartDrive MX2 adaptation worth £4,300 could propel Elijah for up to 11 miles and would have allowed the youngster to travel further on his own.
But not everyone had the same hopes for the eight-year-old.
Elijah’s family have issued a desperate appeal to the heartless thieves who snatched the valuable tech to return it and grant the young schoolboy his freedom once again.
Dad Aaron, 38, revealed the expensive donation had only been delivered to their Walkerville home back at Easter, and Elijah had slowly but surely been learning how to use the motor.
The stand-in minister at Heaton Baptist Church said: “The intention was to give Elijah greater independence.
“As an eight-year-old, pushing himself up a hill is something he can’t do.
“As he gets older, we hoped this would allow him to self propel to school and give him greater independence – something many of us take for granted.”
Spina bifida is a birth defect which causes a gap in the spine due to a lack of development in the womb.
Most children living with condition suffer a degree of weakness or paralysis in their lower limbs, and are prone to the buildup of pressure on the brain due to excess fluid.
Mum Joanna, 37, who works as a physiotherapist for children’s charity Heel and Toe, heard about the SmartDrive through her line of work and was inspired to make the application to the Sunshine Fund.
Elijah had been practicing with the motor under the supervision of his parents ahead of trialling it solo on school runs.
But the SmartDrive add-on was seized by opportunist thieves when they broke into the family’s car on Ivy Road on June 10, and Aaron has outlined the family’s frustration.
He said: “We only noticed about four days later, and we went on a bit of hunt looking for it. It’s just frustrating more than anything.
“To replace it will be expensive and Elijah was disappointed because he saw it as his new toy. This was something that was going to last him for a long time.
“Nothing else of value that we have noticed has been taken. I don’t think the thieves would have known what it was, but you would know from the feel of it and how heavy it was that it was valuable.
“To people apart from Elijah and wheelchair users, it is useless. I don’t hold any malice towards whoever has taken it – we just want it returned, and it would be great if it was undamaged and usable.”
The family have ruled out setting up a JustGiving page at this stage, and are considering reapplying for charity funding if their appeal reaps no rewards.
But Aaron added: “If we’re given a replacement by a charity, the means there is somebody else that would be missing out.”
Sunshine Fund director Carroll Pattison said news of the theft of Elijah’s gift filled her with sadness.
She added: “It is specialist and therefore of no use to anyone else. I really hope it’s returned as I know how much difference it makes to the family’s life.”
• Northumbria Police confirmed officers received a report a number of cars had been damaged and broken in to on Ivy Road at about 4am on June 10. Two men aged 18 and 17 were arrested in connection with the incident, and have been released under investigation. Anyone with information should contact police on 101.