An 11-passenger van stolen last week from a Developmental Disabilities Resource Center location in Silverthorne was recovered early Sunday morning by the Silverthorne Police Department.
Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt said Monday, May 5, the van was reported stolen last Wednesday from a local apartment complex where six DDRC clients live.
The theft was particularly heartbreaking because the local residents were gearing up to participate in a Special Olympics event on Sunday, May 4, at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood. The annual track championship serves as a Mile High Region qualifier for The Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games scheduled for May 31 to June 1 in Grand Junction.
With few leads, Hanschmidt reached out to Colorado Mountain Express to see about arranging a ride to Lakewood for the local athletes. CME donated a van, a driver and gas. Hanschmidt paid the driver’s gratuity.
Ron Marquez, director of community relations for the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, said Monday people with disabilities depend heavily on others for their transportation needs. Had it not been for the efforts of CME, it would have been significantly more challenging for the DDRC to make sure its athletes could participate in Sunday’s qualifier.
“One of the things we always try to do is work collaboratively with the communities we serve,” Marquez said. “From CME’s perspective, this was a really nice thing to do and they obviously stepped up. We would have been able to get somebody up there to take our athletes down to the event, but their help made it much easier and much more timely.”
The stolen van was found at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning in one of the outlying parking lots of the Silverthorne Recreation Center, Hanschmidt said. The van was nearly out of gas, but there was no damage to the vehicle.
No arrests have been made, but Hanschmidt suspects the vehicle was ditched after a report about the theft aired Saturday on 9News.
After it went through the police department impound process, the van was returned Monday to the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center free of charge by Paul’s Towing & Recovery in Silverthorne. Owner Danny Eilts said it was the second time he’s delivered a vehicle to a notable nonprofit, citing another occasion a few years ago when he returned a vehicle to the local chapter of the American Red Cross in Dillon.
“When I heard the police impounded the van I decided to return it for free because you have to do those things,” Eilts said. “You can’t charge people like it. It would have been like charging the Red Cross.”
The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Hanschmidt, who said it represented just one more example of the community rallying around the needs of others.
“This community is just awesome,” he said. “It was really cool that everyone stepped up to help these folks and that’s what it’s really all about. It’s really great to see this kind of thing happening in the community.”
Developmental Disabilities Resource Center is one of 22 state-mandated, community-centered programs that provide services for developmentally disabled residents and their families. Based in Lakewood, DDRC serves residents in Summit, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Jefferson counties.