UPDATE: November 15, 2019. Good News!
After two weeks of heartbreak and dealing with the devastating theft of two vehicles that were built by childhood cancer patients, survivors and their families, the Tennessee-based Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer finally has closure. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2018 Ford Explorer Sport were located by Chattanooga Police near Rossville Boulevard on Nov. 5. These vehicles, modified extensively as part of the foundation’s STEM-based therapy and recovery program, were stripped of all valuables, totaled and hidden in a wooded area. It is not clear at this time how long they were hidden.
Chattanooga Police have made one arrest in the case. Police know at least two others were involved in the theft, but authorities have not yet located these individuals.
All of us in the ModernJeeper family are alarmed by this theft from a Foundation helping kids with cancer. Can a thief stoop any lower? You can donate to help recuperate funds; you can help the Chattanooga police find the vehicles if you hear, see or know anything; and you can help spread the word.
Over the weekend, two vehicles, a 2018 Ford Explorer and 2018 Jeep Wrangler, were stolen from the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer’s Education Advancement Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The organization aims to erase the effects of pediatric cancer and provides services to children with cancer and their families.
The 2018 Ford Explorer Sport and 2018 Jeep Wrangler were built and outfitted by pediatric cancer patients and their families as part of the foundation’s industrial arts therapy division. This program, offered at no cost to participants, gives children a chance to perform occupational therapy in a fun, educational environment. Other benefits include learning new life skills, team building, improved concentration and coordination and more.
Chattanooga police are working to recover the stolen vehicles.
The organization is one of several non-profits supported by SEMA Cares, a SEMA group which raises money for charities with automotive backgrounds. SEMA members assist the organization by donating funds, materials, equipment and more for the therapeutic vehicle builds, like those stolen over the weekend.
In addition to being used by childhood cancer patients and survivors as part of therapy and recovery, both vehicles were to be auctioned in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Leake Auto Auction in January 2020. The foundation’s previous automotive build project, a 2017 HURST Jeepster Commando, raised $225,000 for the organization when it was sold at auction earlier this year.
“We are completely devastated by this horrible theft,” said Austin Hatcher Foundation President Amy Jo Osborn. “These cars had a lot of hard work and love put into them by our patients, and we’re heartbroken to see the wreckage left behind by whoever stole these vehicles. They obviously damaged the vehicles and left a trail of destroyed parts behind. Even if the police find the vehicles, we probably won’t be able to use them as fundraisers as we’d planned. This is truly a huge loss.”
To help recuperate the lost funds, the organization has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations.