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Local artist's stolen van turns into good news story

After days of uncertainty, a van belonging to a local artist with cerebral palsy was found Wednesday morning.

A special mobility van belonging to 31-year-old Quinn Klingerman was found in Ontario, less than a week after it was stolen out of his driveway on the 300 block of Cucamonga Avenue.

Ontario police found the van, a dark blue 2014 Honda Odyssey, abandoned on Elderberry Street around 9 a.m., according to Claremont Police Sgt. Robert Ewing. The vehicle was not damaged, and the special ramp for Mr. Klingerman’s wheelchair was still there, Sgt. Ewing said.

The van was picked up by a tow truck and transported to Sanders Towing.

“The victim was notified and they are working on getting the van picked up,” Sgt. Ewing said on Wednesday.

This is a happy outcome for Mr. Klingerman and his mother, Sheila James, who were both shocked when they discovered the van was taken from Mr. Klingerman’s driveway on June 23.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was fantastic,” Ms. James said when she heard the news that the van was found.

She went to Sanders Towing, found the van was in good condition, and started making arrangements with their insurance company, letting them know the van had been found.

Then, there was a knock on the door.

In a heartwarming twist, Honda surprised Mr. Klingerman with a brand-new Odyssey. Mr. Klingerman and Ms. James had no idea the car company had this plan in the works, which was initiated by a family friend on Facebook.

“Quinn and I had no clue,” Ms. James said. “So I’m sure we looked like we were in shock.”

Now, a new question had presented itself: what to do with two vans?

According to Ms. James, Honda suggested they donate the older van to another family in need. That way, they could still get the new van, have it modified to Mr. Klingerman’s needs, and another family benefits as well.

Mr. Klingerman and Ms. James agreed.

“Once they said that I was like, ‘Oh my God, of course,’” Ms. James said. “This is fantastic.”

Police determined there was no forced entry into the van when it was stolen, and speculated the thief may have entered the unlocked home, snatched the keys and took off in the van.

Mr. Klingerman and a caretaker used the van to get around town, grocery shop, attend the movies and go to the Claremont Club.

“It means very much to me,” he said on Monday before his van was found. “Without it, I couldn’t leave my house.”

The community stepped up to help Mr. Klingerman in the days that followed by setting up GoFundMe accounts to cover the cost of a replacement and even opening a lemonade stand across the street from Vons to raise money.

The Claremont Police Department also chipped in, donating $480 toward covering the costs of an interim rental van, Ms. James said.

“It was just another way we could help out a resident of Claremont,” Corporal Matthew Hamill, the responding officer to the theft and the vice president of the Claremont Police Officers Association, said on Tuesday morning.

Ms. James noted that the story is not only about a Claremonter getting his van back, but also of the community stepping up and helping someone in need.

“People are looking for opportunities to do good,” Ms. James said. “This just took off and people wanted to do good.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com