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Posted on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Donors step up after theft of nonprofit's trailer full of sports equipment for the disabled

By Kyle Feldscher

Usually, crimes show the worst in people — greed, selfishness and disrespect for other people and their property. But, in the aftermath of such acts, the best traits in humanity can sometimes shine through.

One group of Ann Arbor business owners is looking to translate those greatest of human qualities — benevolence, generosity and empathy — into a springboard for recovery for the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living.


The interior of the stolen trailer, along with some contents - before the theft.

Courtesy of AACIL

The center lost tens of thousands of dollars — estimates ranged between $20,000 and $30,000 — when thieves hitched up a trailer, containing specialized sports equipment for the disabled, to an SUV and drove off into the night sometime before the morning of March 12. Despite repeated pleas to return the equipment, the loss of the handcycles, tricycles and other equipment may cost the AACIL the chance to put on some of its usual summer programming.

Nick Suino, owner of the Japanese Martial Arts Center, and other members of the South Side Business Association are working feverishly to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Center for Independent Living was designated as the association’s preferred non-profit organization at the start of the year — meaning there was already going to be fundraisers held in its honor — but the theft put that much more urgency into their efforts.

“The center has a wonderful event where people ride from Ludington to Ann Arbor (and that’s in jeopardy). These folks can’t walk or see and when I thought they weren’t going to do that, I figured we can’t wait for the fundraisers later,” Suino said. “We have to act right now.”

The association has already started to find the funds, coming from anywhere and everywhere, to help the center. At a March 22 meeting of the business association, Suino said he stood up, took $20 from his pocket and committed to donate that money. He encouraged everyone else in the room to donate the same amount, and if it happened, he’d donate $100.

Suino’s motion was well received: About $350 was raised in minutes. And that was just the start.

His goal is to raise $12,000 for the AACIL and he said he’s already about a third of the way there.

Gillian Andrews, co-owner of Andrews Office Warehouse with her husband, said getting involved was never a question once she heard the shocking nature of the crime.

“This was ugly, quite frankly,” she said. “… It wasn’t random. Why the heck would someone want to steal that stuff?”

The business community on the south side of Ann Arbor is a tightly knit group, Andrews said. Part of the reason the association exists is to create a sense of community among those who are all working to make an honest dollar, she said.

With so many businesses near the AACIL, and so many people familiar with the people at the center, the crime hit close to home. But, the people who work at the center were actually less angry about the crime than the business leaders who contacted them, according to James Snider.

Snider, the owner of Arbor Motion, said it was incredible to watch the center’s employees get right back to work instead of focusing on the huge loss of the equipment.

“These aren’t people who heard this news and were down in the doldrums, whining and complaining,” he said. “I was more upset than they were. They are surrounded with unfortunate situations in life, so to them it’s almost like, ‘Hey, we’ll deal with it.’”

Snider said he was ready to put in $1,000, either for reward money or a direct donation to the center.

The support given by the business owners in the South Side Business Association is not shocking, given the type of people in the organization, according to Suino. He said the AACIL’s ideals of being community minded and helping out others meshes nicely with the communal plans of the association.

The chance to step up to the plate and rally around the center gave business owners a chance to practice what they preach, Andrews said.

“All of us firmly believe in a local community working together to be a positive in more ways than making just making an honest dollar,” she said. “We’re trying to walk what we talk.”

To get involved, contact Suino at 734-645-6441, or email him at (Editor's note: The headline on this story has been revised.)

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

That would be a nice package a supporter could purchase. An Insurance policy. For less than 100 dollars a month all that can be insured including the trailer. Probably 50 a month.


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

"Gillian Andrews, co-owner of Andrews Office Warehouse with her husband, said getting involved was never a question once she heard the shocking nature of the crime. "This was ugly, quite frankly," she said. "… It wasn't random. Why the heck would someone want to steal that stuff?" It wasn't the bikes and equipment that they wanted. It was that mint trailer. Unfortunately, the "stuff" is probably been scrapped, sold, or tossed. Let me suggest one of the business folks donate some security for the new set up, IE a tongue lock, perhaps some wheel locks and they have cost effective lo-jack type options available. I know Stanley Doors makes a nice unit that can be mounted on just about anything that will track it if stolen. I have a trailer like that filled with tens of thousands of dollars of work gear, and spend a fair amount of time making sure I am as secure and as insured as possible. I gather none of this "stuff" was insured? Thats a bad idea right there. I bet there wasn't even a lock on the hitch.....ayiyiyiyi.

Paul Larned

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 1:31 a.m.

The Center for Independent Living helps so many wonderful people that it should make all of us ashamed when something like this happens! The police don't seem to be able to make any progress at finding the thieves, but someone knows who did this. What if it was your son, daughter, sister, husband or anyone close to you that had one more disappointment in their life? Call the Ann Arbor Police at 734.996.3199 and tell them what you know. You don't have to tell them who you are.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

"greed, selfishness and disrespect for other people and their property." I learned the reason for crime from my liberal college teachers was because of factors of race, income, and social society standing, and gender all laid out in nice theories of crime. Never and I really do mean never were "greed, selfishness and disrespect for other people and their property", ever mentioned. Are there really humans out there that are geedy, selfish, and disrespectful and should be held accountable for their actions. If so our Higher Learning Institutions are not teaching that for reasons of crime.

Carolyn L. Grawi

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Thank you Kyle and thank you Nick and the South Side Business Association! We appreciate all your support! We do care and we are very saddened by what has occurred. We want to figure how to get to the next steps as quickly as possibile so we can continue to provide the inclusive recreational program opportunities for people with disabilities. All readers and businesses please also feel free to make direct donations to: or send it to Ann Arbor CIL, 3941 Research Park Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Thank you to everyone in the community who is reaching out to assist us! Carolyn Grawi, Ann Arbor CIL, Director of Advocacy and Education

Joyce Williams

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Huron Valley Ambulance is proud to be a one of the founding members of the South Side Business Association. Go, SSBA! Joyce at HVA


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

awesome glad to hear it i asked my friend pavel Datsyuk to see if the wings can help


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Great story, thanks Kyle. Regarding the title of the story, though, I think you could have done better. I'm not sure who would want "Disabled sports equipment"???


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Perhaps the title should say sports equipment for the disabled rather than what it means right now which is non-working sports equipment. Otherwise, good story and great community effort.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

It's great to hear about community efforts like this! I'm going to help out. Thanks for the story, Kyle!