Just when you thought that there were no more heartwarming stories or kind actions performed by strangers, comes this story out of Massachusetts and The Sun Chronicle Newspaper.
Local resident Bruce Stewart, 68, was crossing the street in his electric wheelchair last July, 2017 when a driver took an illegal right turn through the crosswalk and crashed into Stewart, running over his foot and damaging his motorized wheelchair.
There wasn’t much of a silver lining after the accident. Not only was the driver in the accident not criminally charged, but the check the driver’s insurance company cut Stewart wasn’t nearly enough to cover the $3,000 Stewart needed for a new electric wheelchair.
Stewart wasn’t sure what he was going to do next. He fixed up his motorized wheelchair the best he could and went about his normal activities, taking extra precaution in navigating the banged up electric wheelchair he uses to get everywhere he needs.
But this Thursday, February 8th, Stewart, was all smiles as he hopped into a new set of wheels bought with money raised by the North Attleboro, Massachusetts Police and Fire Associations.
“How about that?” he said, cruising his motorized wheelchair around the lobby of Town Hall.
The new electric wheelchair, more of an electric scooter, is red and shiny and has many more features that left his old chair in the dust by comparison. And the bigger and better model most likely will prevent another accident from occurring.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Stewart was hit by a car. He was also hit by a car as a child. That accident left him with leg and knee injuries that would affect him throughout his life. An orthopedic told Stewart he would likely be using a wheelchair by 40. Stewart defied that prediction lasting on his feet until 60, when he legs finally gave out.
At that time he got a small two-wheel electric wheelchair that he still operates with a joystick, but has a manual wheelchair at home as well. The new chair, a Hoveround Panther, is on four wheels and has many of the features a car or scooter would: It has a steering wheel, headlights, turn signals, brake lights, rear view mirrors and a horn. The wheels are built for tough terrain and the chair can even travel a distance of 25 miles between charges and speeds up to 8 mph.
The news of the accident and Stewart’s hardship made its way around town. Assistant Town Administrator Joann Cathcart said when Attleboro Police and Fire officials heard about what happened to Stewart, they wanted to help. Each association donated $500 from their various fundraisers, including the annual North Attleboro Firefighters Kids Day carnival, to pay for the chair.
Officer Craig Chapman said the police and fire organizations are founded on the premise of giving back.
“That’s why we have fundraisers,” Chapman said. “It’s nice to be able to help people in need in our community. We do support charities like the Special Olympics and others at the national level too, but we’re certainly glad to be able to help here at home.”