A generous gift replaced a power wheelchair that was stolen recently. Kyle Schultz, a 26-year-old who lives with ALS, lost his SUV, his wheelchair and other needed items in a vehicle theft in St. Paul this summer.
The vehicle was found not long after the theft was reported. It had been stripped of all its parts, and was resting on blocks. There were no signs of the wheelchair and it still has not turned up. However, a new wheelchair was given to Schultz, thanks to the kindness of another Minnesotan.
“We noticed (Schultz has) a tattoo with the word ‘hope’ and our foundation is called the O’Neill Foundation of Hope,” said Ryan O’Neill, a professional musician from Bloomington. He said he felt a family-like connection with Schultz, who use to manufacture hot tubs before he was diagnosed with ALS.
The foundation bought Schultz a new $3,000 portable electric wheelchair to replace the one that was stolen.
Schultz needed something portable because he doesn’t yet have an accessible minivan. As valuable as that chair is for Schultz’s independence, O’Neill and all those who reached out gave them an even more precious gift: hope.
A St. Paul man has been charged with stealing the SUV, the wheelchair and the vehicle’s power lift.
Keon Donte McDowell, 19, is charged with theft of a motor vehicle for his part in the crime.
According to police, all four tires had been removed, and the vehicle was on blocks. The grill, headlights and side mirrors were also missing, as well as the electric wheelchair and other items that were in the vehicle.
As part of their investigation, the vehicle was swabbed for DNA and possible fingerprints. Police then recovered a fingerprint belonging to McDowell, and compared booking photos of McDowell to the surveillance video of the theft, which they believe matched.
Schultz is one of the youngest people in the entire region with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Schultz was just 24 when he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Doctors gave him a life expectancy of one to three years. He continues to lose more of his mobility.
Schultz was deeply moved by the gift of a new chair and was able to thank O’Neill in person. Schultz’s power wheelchair, ramps and the vest for his service dog Deuce, were inside his vehicle when it was stolen.
At the time, a doorbell video captured the moments someone checked out the SUV before getting inside and driving away.
McDowell has several prior convictions for offenses that include numerous counts of theft of a motor vehicle, terroristic threats and fleeing police.