MILWAUKEE -- There was a big surprise Wednesday, Jan. 10 for a family whose van was stolen on Christmas -- with wheelchairs used by their young boys with disabilities. Their GoFundMe.com campaign to purchase a new van got a big boost, with a $5,000 donation from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
On Christmas morning, Jose Figueroa started the family van as they prepared to head out to visit family. When he turned his back, a criminal drove off in it. The van was donated to help the family transport the children, ages 7 and 4, who are living with disabilities. On Dec. 29, the van was found torched and gutted in an alley near 53rd and Lisbon. The medical equipment was not inside.
"There was nothing we could do. It was quick!" Jose Figueroa said.
In early January, strangers donated wheelchairs for the boys, and on Wednesday, Abele donated $5,000 to help the family purchase a new van, with $22,000 now raised through their GoFundMe.com campaign.
"There are so many folks who have reached out. There are too many to name," Figueroa said. "There's still love in the community, and we need to look out for each other. Thank you. Thank you. I can't say it enough."
"We all have a choice when we see a story that makes us frustrated. We can sit there and shake our heads and throw up our hands or we can say 'that's not the Milwaukee we live in' and do something about it. This is who Milwaukee is. Not the theft. What they have provided to all of us, is an opportunity to do good for someone," Abele said.
No one has been arrested for the theft of the van. The investigation is ongoing.
The non-profit My Choice Family Care is helping the family find a new van, and providing transportation in the meantime. The family is confident they'll be able to get a new van soon with the necessary items like a wheelchair ramp.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has helped bring groups together and spread the word. The family says if donations exceed their needs, they'll donate whatever is left to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and Penfield Children's Center -- the group that donated the original van.
CLICK HERE if you'd like to donate to the Figueroa family's GoFundMe.com account.