CLEVELAND — The summer sun was shining early Tuesday morning on Cleveland’s
W. 65th Street as the temperatures slowly climbed into the 70s, yet to Linda Grose and her family, it felt more like Christmas.
“There’s your van!” shouted Call for Action Reporter Lorrie Taylor, who arranged for the surprise that was fast approaching Grose’s home.
The 65-year-old woman’s 1999 Dodge Caravan had been stolen from her W. 44th Street home two weeks earlier and was badly damaged in a hit-and-run accident.
“Oh my God!” shouted Grose, as the gold colored minivan came to a rest just a few feet from where she was sitting.
“Surprise!” shouted Dennis Blakeslee from Wyld Wheelz on E. 359th Street in Eastlake. He was the modern day Santa Claus climbing out from behind the wheel of Grose’s van.
Blakeslee had been watching FOX 8 News two weeks earlier when he saw the story of Grose’s stolen van and the wheelchair that was stored inside. Grose only had the van five days before it was taken. It was not insured for theft; the disabled grandmother had no way to repair the demolished front end or the motor that would no longer start.
Blakeslee not only had the skills to fix the van after more than 20 years restoring cars, boats and motorcycles. He also had the right kind of friends.
He named off everyone who had donated time, products or services to restoring Grose’s automobile.
“All the body work and everything was done by Wyld Wheelz, my shop,” Blakeslee began. “The wheels and tires were donated by Mike Rush because the tires were stolen. All the parts you see were donated by Affordable, Jessie at Affordable.”
The wheel covers, or hubcaps, were donated by O’Riley’s on Vine Street in Eastlake and the windshield was replaced by C-Auto Glass in Cleveland.
“The beautiful luster of the gold paint was donated by Premiere Paints of Eastlake, Ohio,” Blakeslee told Taylor, as he walked around the van.
Grose enjoyed every minute of her visual tour.
“Oh God, I’m so happy. It looks so good, looks like the day I got it,” she said.
Grose was trapped without the minivan. She had been partially paralyzed in an accident ten years ago and had no way to get to her doctor’s appointments. A generous FOX 8 viewer from Mentor replaced her stolen wheelchairs and Blakeslee did the rest.
“I don’t know what to say, but thanks to Dennis, I don’t think I would have ever got it fixed,” Grose told Taylor.
The elderly woman admitted the only alternative available to her was a nearby junkyard.
“I was just the coach that pulled the team together to help out Linda,” said Blakeslee.
Taylor thanked the summer Santa and hugged him goodbye. Gross and her husband waved their thanks as they drove off for the first time since the van was taken.
“Thank you and Channel 8 for everything!” they shouted.