A disabled veteran who participates in cycling competitions around the world is appealing for help after his $16,000 handcycle was stolen.
“[The handcycle] is a coping mechanism, it was a chance to get away and another opportunity to not be in a wheelchair,” said Gerard Ah-Fook of Tucson, Ariz. “For someone like myself who’s in a wheelchair to get out and get active, to push my physical boundaries, it allows me a chance to better my emotional and mental health.”
Ah-Fook enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1995 and lost his right leg and injured part of the left one in a boating accident while he was serving in 1999.
That’s when physical therapists introduced him to handcycling, a relatively new sport at the time.
“It was another opportunity to not be in a wheelchair which was an important message for me at the time being newly injured,” he explained. “It allowed me to realize disability wasn’t exactly who I am.”
Over the years, he became serious about his training, cycling more than 40 miles a day, for five or six days a week.
Ah-Fook also races other disabled people internationally with the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team and the University of Arizona’s handcycling team.
“I don’t go more than one day without riding,” he explained.
But, it has been four days since he said his wife discovered the custom handcycle was missing.
“My heart sank,” he explained. “She knows that it’s important. She came over quite a bit frantic.”
Ah-Fook explains friends and family have been generous and loaning him temporary equipment so he can practice for an upcoming race.
He now hopes to be able to raise enough money to purchase a new handcycle.
To donate to the family, visit their GoFundMe page.