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Disabled Leonia Theft Victim Gets State-Of-The-Art Wheelchair

Courtney, 14 of Leonia.
Courtney, 14 of Leonia. Photo Credit: Leonia PD

LEONIA, N.J. — A disabled Leonia teen who had his motorized wheelchair stolen last month will get a specialized replacement on Tuesday morning that will allow him to do daily activities "at the speed of life," Police Chief Thomas Rowe said Monday.

An official from Quantum Rehab of Exeter, PA will present the EDGE power chair to Courtney Machiri at the borough American Legion Hall (399 Broad Avenue) at 11 a.m.

The chair positions the rider at eye level, allowing Courtney, who has cerebral palsy, to "interact with people and his environment in an elevated rather than seated position," Rowe said.

"His ability to communicate with others will be enhanced and his ability to perform activities of daily living will be improved. Imagine living your life in a seated position," the chief said.

"Access to hotel or bank counters, the blackboard at school, the bathroom sink or the kitchen stove all pose a significant challenge," he added. "These obstacles are removed with the iLevel feature."

Police arrested 18-year-old Michael L. Peralta a day after the July 14 theft, saying he rode the $12,000 chair away from the Machiri family's Broad Avenue apartment complex.

Immediately after the theft was reported, state Sen. Kevin O'Toole reached out to Richard McLane, Quantum's general manager, who offered to build the new chair for free -- and expedite the process, Rowe said.

"Although Courtney’s wheelchair had been recovered, Quantum Rehab still pledged to build him a new wheelchair," the chief said, "as he had outgrown his existing wheelchair and the new wheelchair would be state-of-the-art."

A GoFundMe page established for Courtney raised more than $17,000 to help his family.

The money will also go toward "modifications for [the family] van and home to accommodate the new chair, and any other additional equipment to make their lives easier," it says. "And boy do they deserve it after what they have been through."

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