Thief steals 6-year-old's wheelchair off front porch

CINCINNATI -- Everyone on Austyn Bloebaum's North Fairmount street recognizes the 6-year-old by her glasses, her blonde pigtails and the custom wheelchair she's used to navigate the world since she was a toddler.

Austyn has spina bifida, a malformation of the spinal cord that means she will never be able to walk on her own.

Since Thursday morning, when her chair was stolen, she hasn't been able to do much at all. 

"It's very hurtful," her mother, Casey Hamilton, said. "It hurts for her not to go to school because she loves school."

Hamilton said she left her daughter's wheelchair outside on the chilly morning while they waited for the school bus indoors. When they came outside again, it had vanished.

With the wheelchair went Austyn's ability to attend school, play outside or see her friends, and the $8,500 price tag is too steep for her family to replace it quickly. She and her mother said Friday they both hoped the thief would return it soon.

"If you stole it, I've been praying for you," Hamilton said. "She just wants her chair back. She wants to go to school; she wants to resume her life."

Anyone with information about the theft of Austyn's wheelchair should contact the Cincinnati Police Department. A GoFundMe account is raising money for a replacement.

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