Strangers donate to handicapped Cary boy after theft

STAFF WRITERMarch 27, 2012 


Nolan Turner, 12, was fundraising this Thursday to bring wheelchair basketball to his school for a day so that his friends can experience the challenging game with him, when a man stole his money. Photo taken Friday March 23, 2012.


Compassionate strangers from across the country have banded together and donated more than $17,000 to support a handicapped Cary boy who had his cash stolen Thursday when he was raising money for a wheelchair basketball event.

A flood of donations from $5 to $500 have poured in since Friday to help 12-year-old Nolan Turner bring the experience of playing wheelchair basketball to Briarcliff Elementary School. More than 450 people have donated nearly $18,000, far beyond Nolan’s original goal of $1000.

Hundreds of inspirational messages have also been posted on Nolan’s fundraising site reminding Nolan that "good always wins."

"Whether you donated or just offered a supporting message, Nolan has been overcome with emotion at times as we read the messages that are pouring in from all over," Nolan’s father, Ken Turner, wrote on the fundraising site. "We are amazed by all of the outpouring of support from friends, strangers, and basically everyone else."

One parent posted that her three kids had decided to give their allowance this week to support Nolan. Another supporter said he has played in the Paralympics for the past three years and wants to see Nolan in the Paralympics one day.

Nolan had staked out in his neighborhood Thursday evening to sell water bottles near High Meadow Drive when a man came up and stole his cash bucket, filled with more than $250. The man walked unhurriedly away, according to Cary police Captain Mike Williams. Nolan yelled and screamed at the man but was helpless to follow him.

Ashley Thomas, founder of Bridge II Sports, said she was thrilled when Nolan told her he wanted to share his wheelchair basketball experience with his schoolmates.

The Durham-based nonprofit, which provides sports opportunities to physically disabled teens and adults, encourages its clients to talk about their disabilities and not be ashamed of them. Born with spina bifida, Nolan has gained confidence and self-esteem while playing with the Raleigh Junior Thunder team, she said.

“Everybody at school has been asking me what it’s like to (play basketball) in a wheelchair, and I want to show them,” Nolan said Friday.

The money Nolan had collected would pay staff to show the Briarcliff students how to operate the wheelchairs, to transport the equipment and cover the required insurance. Each wheelchair, specially designed for basketball, costs $2,500 to $5,000.

“We’ll put cones down and let them dribble up and down the court, then probably play a game of sharks and minnows,” Thomas said. She said students at the school probably will be surprised at how challenging it is to play wheelchair basketball.

According to Nolan’s mother Amy Moore, the family plans to donate all of the money to Bridge II Sports. It will be used to buy a trailer to transport wheelchairs to and from events. The non-profit will also use the funds to take wheelchairs to a sports camp this summer, so that there will be enough wheelchairs for the counselors to play games against the campers. Bridge II Sports is currently trying to expand its track and field program, and will also use the money to buy more wheelchairs specially designed for that program.

Nolan’s father has set up this fundraising site for anyone who would like to donate.

Police are still searching for the man who took the money. He is described as black male with a tattoo on the back of his left arm. He is between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall, in his 20s, and has very short hair or is bald, Williams said.

Cary police have asked anyone with information about the case to call 919-469-4012 or Crime Stoppers at 919-226-2743.

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