FRANKLIN, Ohio -- Ryan Fisher’s family never found out who stole his cherished RTV in November, but that loss stopped mattering Thursday night.
Fisher, a 21-year-old man who has autism, loved his Kubota RTV in a way that surpassed simple pride. Driving the utility vehicle around his family’s property gave him purpose and drive, according to his grandparents, and allowed him to have the same experience as other young people with driver’s licenses.
"It’s the best therapy he’s every got in his life," said Robert Sizemore, Fisher's grandfather. He and his wife, Betty, gave the first RTV to Fisher when he turned 18.
When it was stolen Nov. 1 and insurance initially refused to replace it, Fisher and his family were heartbroken.
So were more than a million people who heard and shared Ryan’s story online -- and the public attention moved Zimmer Tractors so much that a local representative decided the business would gift Fisher a replacement free of charge.
"I have not one single doubt in my mind (that online attention helped)," said Theresa Fisher, Ryan’s mother. "For me, I did not realize the power of social media. We had people from Canada who were messaging us; we found out it was shared in Spain."
And Ryan Fisher greeted his replacement, which was specially made to resemble his old RTV as closely as possible, with applause Thursday night.
"I just want to say thank you all," Fisher said to the crowd of people who helped him celebrate the gift.
Ryan said he plans to plow snow for neighbors this winter -- and when it’s not in use, it’ll be in a very safe place.
"I’ll park in the barn so people can’t see it no more," he said.