For the second time in three months, a swing specially made for a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy has been stolen from the backyard of his Colorado home.
"You've got to be kidding me" was the initial reaction from his mother, Cindy DeSplinter. "It's unbelievable," she told ABC News.
"The police have a feeling it might be kids in the neighborhood," she said. "Like they saw it up again and it was kind of a challenge to steal it again."
Micah DeSplinter is the third child of Cindy and her husband, a carpenter, but the first to live a full year. The couple had one child who was stillborn, and a second was born prematurely and died at 4 months.
"Micah," she said, pausing, "is pretty special to us."
A Medicaid program paid about $500 for the first swing for Micah, she said. But in July, someone stole that swing.
"I really don't think there's a market for it. This is not a marketable item. I mean, it costs a lot to get one, but that's like any other medical device — you're going to pay 10 times what it's really worth. So the resale value is nothing."
"And especially when you have a family that needs it," DeSplinter said.
Local Media Coverage Helps
After the first theft, DeSplinter agreed to an interview with a television station, hoping a neighbor would recognize the swing and call police.
"We hoped someone would see it and recognize it and say, 'Hey, what is that person doing with a special-needs swing?' 'Cause it's not an easily hideable item."
Though the swing was not found, reaction to the story was swift.
A hardware store chain came to the house and built fencing between the family's yard and a park. In a nearby town, a family that heard about the theft paid for a replacement, choosing to remain anonymous, DeSplinter said.
Then earlier this month, the DeSplinters woke up to find the new swing missing.
"I just don't understand why," she said. "Why us? We haven't done anything to anyone. Not even 'us,'" she said, correcting herself. "This is a 5-year-old boy. Nobody should have anything against a 5-year-old boy, whether they have disabilities or not."
This time around, she said, police took fingerprints from the heavy steel frame from which the swing used to hang.
"It's been a couple weeks, and we haven't heard anything back, so I imagine they weren't able to get any [fingerprint] matches. But maybe down the line if this person gets in trouble, we'll get a hit on their fingerprints."
"Better late than never," she said.
DeSplinter said she doesn't know whether or not Micah understands that his swing has been stolen twice.
"He may understand, but he doesn't know how to let us know. I know he's very happy when he's swinging. Movement is great for kids like him. He loves movement. That's very common to kids with brain injuries."
Micah cannot play on swings in nearby parks, his mother said.
"He has a hard time breathing, so we have a portable deep suction machine that has to go with him everywhere, and it's too cumbersome to take to the park so he has to stay close to home."
Hoping to Afford Another Replacement Swing
For now, the DeSplinters have no plans to replace the swing, at least until the spring.
She said the family is enrolled in a supplementary state program for special-needs children, which supplies additional money beyond normal Medicaid.
"Our program starts fresh every May, and we've already exhausted our money for the year. But before we even think about getting a new swing, I think we're going to have to fence the entire yard in. My husband and I are of a different mind on this. I think we should get security cameras so that if this happens again, at least we'll have it on tape."
"Some of our friends have suggested trying some not-so-nice things,'' she said. "Some people have suggested electrifying the fence. But I don't want to electrocute anyone," she said, laughing. "They'd probably sue us anyway."
How to help: Cindy DeSplinter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org