Veteran in Inland Empire Grateful to Get Stolen Wheelchair Back

The wheelchair was charging on a back porch when it was taken

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Blaine Van Gogh's $3,500 electric wheelchair was charging on his back porch when it was stolen on Wednesday. Less than two days later, after receiving dozens of offers from people wanting to help, the chair was discovered abandoned at an empty house four blocks from where it disappeared. Jacob Rascon reports from the High Desert for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on March 29, 2013. (Published Friday, Mar 29, 2013)

    A disabled veteran in the High Desert is once again rolling in his favorite set of wheels, just days after his $3,500 electric wheelchair was stolen from his porch.

    A training accident in South Korea in 1975 left Blaine Van Gogh, now 70, without a left leg and hip.

    "I've worked hard all my life, and even as an amputee, I've worked," Van Gogh said.

    Van Gogh overcame his challenges and became a proud grandparent and youth minister, but he said the theft of his wheelchair shook his faith in people.

    "I got up to take my two grandkids to school, and I looked out the door and my chair was gone," Van Gogh said.

    The wheelchair was only a year old and had improved Van Gogh's life in ways, he said, that are beyond explanation.

    "When I saw that my chair was not there, I felt violated," Van Gogh said.

    His motorized wheelchair was stolen from the back patio of his Helendale home.

    Van Gogh called Victorville Daily Press reporter Rene De La Cruz.

    "Deep down inside I said, 'You know what, we're going to get your chair back,'" De La Cruz said.

    His article came out Wednesday morning. Not many hours later, De La Cruz received a nice surprise.

    "I had received 25 phone calls, people wanting to donate chairs, donate cash," De La Cruz said.

    "I felt hope again," Van Gogh said. "And revitalized with the goodness of people."

    Then, the real chair showed up. It had been abandoned at an empty house four blocks from where it disappeared.

    "Oh my gosh, I was so thrilled, so thrilled to have my chair back," Van Gogh said.

    Thrilled and armed with new lesson material for Easter.

    "It's what I'm going to teach my Sunday school class," Van Gogh said.

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