ABC11 Together: Owner of handicap-modified car plans to 'pay it sideways'

ABC11 Together highlights good deeds, community needs and how our viewers can help
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A Wake County father is looking to turn a terrible experience into a good deed.

Last Wednesday, a thief stole Mike Leary's handicap-modified car right out of his driveway.

Leary, a single father of two, is wheelchair bound and relies heavily on his refurbished 2001 Suzuki to get to and from work.

"I just hated the world Wednesday morning, you know, when my son came in there and told me it was gone," he said. "I just- that was a bad- that was a bad moment."

Desperate to replace his stolen car, Leary created a GoFundMe account, sharing his story and asking for $5,000. Within 24 hours, family members, friends, and strangers exceeded that target amount and Leary says it restored his faith in people.

"People I don't even know just say, 'I'll come get you, take your kids to school, I'll come drive you to the grocery store,'" Leary explained.

While grateful for their help, he soon wouldn't need it. A Raleigh police officer patrolling the Raleigh North apartment complex Saturday morning spotted Leary's stolen Suzuki backed into a parking space.

Leary said the thief put 1,500 miles on the car, there were some minor damages, but the hand controls which are worth much more than the car itself, were left intact.

"That was one of my biggest fears is that they would've just ripped these things out," Leary said as he sat behind the wheel on Monday, demonstrating how the controls work.

Leary updated the GoFundMe page, letting all the generous donors know his car was found. He offered to refund their money, but people have written back, encouraging him to keep it.

He still plans to put the money to good use to buy a new, larger van and then donate the Suzuki to another handicapped person who needs one.

"It's not really donating," he insisted. "It isn't really paying it forward so much as paying it sideways."

Local dealer, Van Products, has offered to install hand controls in Leary's new van for free.

Raleigh police are still searching for the person who stole Leary's car.

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