WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) -- Westlake police are investigating the theft of catalytic converters from a fleet of vans, used by a non-profit group with a special mission.
Youth Challenge provides sports, recreation and other activities for children and young adults who have physical disabilities, and a key component of the program is the organization's specially-equipped vans.
CEO Chris Garr told FOX 8, "Transportation can be a difficult thing for anybody but particularly for 95% of the children who come to Youth Challenge and have some kind of mobility need, our transportation is a lifeline.”
The operators of the non-profit discovered that over the weekend, the catalytic converters were stolen from five of the organization's vans, rendering them undriveable.
Youth Challenge had no choice but to cancel activities until the vans can be repaired. "We're not angry, not bitter, really disappointed, disappointed that our kids don't get to have those activities for this week, disappointed our staff because we're looking forward to it,” said Garr. "Disappointed in whomever thought this was a good idea to steal catalytic converters; my guess is that person didn't realize that they were affecting so many people, and maybe had they thought that through, maybe it would have been a different story.”
Police say thieves place a value on catalytic converters because they contain precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium that can be sold to scrap metal recycling companies.
Garr says the organization's insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs to the vans, but Youth Challenge will have to pay the deductible on each of the vehicles. That's why they are establishing a GoFundMe page to cover that cost.
According to Garr, the hardest part has been telling the kids that various activities have been cancelled or postponed. "It's where they make really meaningful relationships; they very much look forward to their experiences here, to tell them sorry, we're not having programs this week, it's a bummer,” he said.
If you would like to help cover the cost of repairing the vans, you can click here for the GoFundMe page.