During halftime at Boise State’s home football game last week, Heather Ogden carried her husband, Nathan, from their seats back up to where they had parked his wheelchair — only to find that the chair was gone.
“Can you believe it?” Nathan Ogden said in a Facebook live video from the stadium. “Someone stole my wheelchair.”
The story went viral. A search party of community members canvassed the area near the stadium Monday night. Ogden said he suspected that whoever stole his chair was just goofing off and might have dumped it by the river or in a dumpster somewhere, he said.
“No wheelchair found tonight but a huge outpouring of love showed up to help us find it!” Nathan Ogden posted to Facebook Monday night.
The generosity continued throughout the week.
On Monday, Boise State University committed in a tweet to replace Ogden’s wheelchair if it wasn’t recovered. Odgen, a Capital High School graduate, studied at Boise State, according to his Facebook page.
The goal set on the GoFundMe account is $40,000. Nathan’s wheelchair only cost about $4,500, but the extra funds will go toward the family’s Chair the Hope effort to provide wheelchairs to people in impoverished countries, according to the GoFundMe page.Want more news like this in your email inbox every morning?Yes!
The situation is ironic, Ogden told the Meridian Press, because this summer, he and Heather and their four children did a relay bike trip from Bend, Oregon, to Los Angeles to raise money for wheelchairs for people in need.
Having his own chair stolen, Ogden said, has fueled his passion for getting wheelchairs to others who need one.
For the short period of time when he didn’t have a wheelchair at the football game, Ogden said he felt helpless.
“I had no way of getting around unless someone picked me up,” he said. “It’s as if you woke up and your legs were missing. And it takes away your independence, your ability to choose.”
Ogden said he’ll either find his chair or get a new one, but he hopes people will consider giving money to help fund wheelchairs for others.
“Hopefully this kind of brings a better awareness to people with different disabilities, whether they’re like me in a wheelchair or maybe they’re battling an addiction or something,” Ogden said. “We all have to be understanding of what each other are going through and have respect for it.”
The Ogden family bike trip this summer raised $43,000 — enough to fund 286 wheelchairs through the Wheelchair Foundation, Ogden said. The family plans to visit Mexico in March to help with wheelchair deliveries.
Nathan Ogden was paralyzed during a skiing accident in Bend in 2001, and he was further injured when dropped from a gurney at a hospital. Read more about his story at mymeridianpress.com.
Find videos from the family’s bike trip on Nathan Ogden’s YouTube page.