SOUTH SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Wheelchairs and sports equipment for paraplegic athletes were stolen from a storage unit, leaving those who need them on the sidelines.

City program manager Jenny Yarrow says more than $30,000 in specialized wheelchairs and sports equipment was taken from the storage unit.

“We opened the door and it was just chaos. Everything was just in shambles,” she said. “I had to just step back for a minute. It kind of made me sick to my stomach.”

Everything from walkie-talkies to rugby- and tennis-specific chairs were ripped off. Para-athletes like Alicia Fitzpatrick say the loss of the chairs are devastating, because it’s hard to find chairs that fit.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I have been without a chair before, and know when you don’t have one, it’s kind of like you’re lost.”

The specialized chairs not only give the athletes a chance to play sports, but also a sense of belonging.

“I had guys that were down in the dumps, and now are wanting to play in the Para-Olympics, wanting to play professionally overseas,” she said. “You can start off so low, but go so high just being affiliated.”

Yarrow says the thieves broke in through the side door at River Cats Independence Field on Meadowview Road.

“We are going to have to figure out a way to get the chairs repairs, and get reimbursed for chairs that were taken,” he said.

The chairs cost as much as $4,000 apiece and for most of these athletes, the city equipment is the only way to get on the field.

“It’s devastating. We are all on SSI for the most part,” Fitzpatrick said. “We can’t afford these chairs.”

Despite the losses, Yarrow says the recreation programs will go on, saying she won’t let the thieves take away the games too.

“We are going to come out here and if it means we pull our own gear and mitts again and bats like we’ve done in years past then that’s what we do,” she said. “We are going to play baseball.”


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