It’s hard to imagine that anyone would steal a tricycle from a man with Down syndrome, but it’s refreshing to know that the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers (RIBCO) cared enough to put a smile back on Stephen DeSisto’s face by giving him a new one.
DeSisto, 30, said while he was “very hurt” and “upset” when he found his adult tricycle had been taken from his backyard last Monday, he feels much better now that he has a shiny new Schwinn.
“I’m really, really happy,” he said, his mother Sandra DeSisto noting that they both had tears of joy when a few RIBCO members visited their home on Main Avenue with a new tricycle a week ago. She said the stolen tricycle was valued at more than $400, and that it would have taken her six months to save the money to replace it.
According to a report by WPRI Channel 12, who broke the news of the theft, the station was flooded with calls from concerned citizens wanting to help. The RIBCO Executive Board decided to donate a new tricycle after taking an “emergency vote.”
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of perfect strangers,” Sandra said. “I’ve got stacks of e-mails and phone numbers of people to thank.”
She and Stephen are grateful that RIBCO stepped up and donated the new three-wheeler, complete with a basket on the back. Stephen, who has been riding the tricycle every day around the neighborhood and to local stores since receiving it as a Christmas gift a few years ago, said he didn’t like seeing his mother so upset, as she “broke down” when she told him the tricycle was stolen.
“She was crying her eyes out,” Stephen said, as Sandra added, “I was devastated. I couldn’t even see straight.”
Life hasn’t been easy for the DeSistos during recent years. Up until a few months ago, Stephen was in a shared living program, as their former home was destroyed in a house fire in 2010. Sandra and her boyfriend, Jimmy Lennon, have had financial struggles ever since, and claim an insurance adjuster has been nothing but trouble.
She also said that due to the fire, she developed severe psoriasis on her hands, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD, a lung disease resulting from smoke inhalation, and is unable to work because of her disability. After recently getting settled in their home on Main Avenue, the tricycle incident was yet another hard hit.
“The last three years have been total hell for all of us,” she said. “We just brought [the tricycle] here from the other house he was living in. I’ve never had a problem in this neighborhood. I took my kids trick-or-treating in this neighborhood when they were little because it was so safe.”
Despite the heartache, their spirits are high. They are confident Warwick Police will recover the missing tricycle. As of press time, Sandra said police are on the cusp of solving the crime, as a witness came forward with evidence. When it is returned, Stephen plans to “pay it forward” and gift it to another person in need.
Still, he is content riding his new wheels, as well as taking part in some of his favorite activities, including dancing and singing.
“The family he was living with has a country band,” Sandra said, pointing out that he also enjoys listening to rock music. “They gave him a guitar, too,” which he mounted on his bedroom wall. When he’s not dancing and listening to music, he’s watching DVDs of his favorite TV shows, such as “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place,” “Friends,” “ER” and more.
Stephen also spends time packaging goods at the workshop in the Patterson Building through the Trudeau Center. Additionally, he is a client of the recreation program at Trudeau and recently participated in this year’s Special Olympics, where he received a gold medal for power lifting, as well as a trophy for bowling.
While he is in need of orthopedic sneakers due to a leg injury, he happily rides his bike. Seeing him smile again fills Sandra with gratitude.
“I want to thank the community for everything that they’ve done,” she said. “There are so many bad things going on in the world that it’s nice to see that the good prevails over the evil.”