Thieves Steal Custom Jeep Wrangler, Ford Explorer Built to Benefit Children With Cancer

Detectives in Chattanooga are asking people to come forward with information on the stolen trucks, which were expected to bring $225,000 at auction.

byRob Stumpf|
Thieves Steal Custom Jeep Wrangler, Ford Explorer Built to Benefit Children With Cancer

Police in Chattanooga, Tennessee are asking people to be on the lookout for two vehicles stolen from the Austin Hatcher Foundation, a charity organization that provides services to pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Thieves made off with two custom vehicles over the weekend: a 2018 Ford Explorer Sport and a 2019 Jeep Wrangler outfitted by Rugged Ridge. Both vehicles were being stored at the foundation's warehouse and were to be offered at a Scottsdale, Arizona-based charity auction in January 2020. A previous build by the foundation, a customized 2017 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Hurst Edition, raised a total of $225,000 for the foundation.

Each vehicle is unique beyond its visual customization. The foundation worked with pediatric patients and their families to design and build both vehicles as part of its occupational therapy program, a service that gives each child the chance to participate in therapy services in a fun and motorsports-related environment. Best of all, the program is offered at no cost to participants and their families.

A Facebook post by the organization indicated that the individuals responsible for the theft tore through a fence and damaged a vehicle transport trailer before making off with the two trucks.

Jonathon Myren, the foundation's industrial arts director, told local news that he believes the thieves used a tire iron to break into the vehicle transport trailer to look for keys to the vehicles. After locating them, they drove the cars through a gate and off the premises.

At least one of the vehicles may have sustained some damage, as the Ford Explorer's factory roof rails and custom roof carrier were left at the scene. The damage to the gate also indicates that one of the vehicles may have light damage to the front end as it was used as a battering ram.

According to a report by the International Motorsports Association, the vehicles are said to be insured, however, the foundation will not be compensated for any aftermarket parts lost in the theft. Additionally, given the unlikelihood that the vehicles will be recovered in an auctionable condition, the organization has begun fundraising to make up for the lost donations.

There are currently two fundraisers in place to help recover funds lost from the theft, one on GoFundMe and the other on Facebook. Collectively, the foundation's efforts have raised $2,253 at the time of writing.

Individuals who have information on the vehicle's whereabouts should contact the Chattanooga Police Department at (423) 698-2525.