Van theft victim perseveres - Chicago Breaking News
—Erin Meyer reporter:
For 16-year-old Ondelee Perteet, life has had no shortage of challenges.
Ondelee was 14 when he was shot during a birthday party melee on the city's West Side in September 2009. The bullet severed his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic.
Now, with the trial of the teenage boy charged with attempted murder set to begin in May, Perteet and his family face another hurdle.
On Wednesday the wheelchair-accessible minivan the family received for Christmas was stolen. The family has relied on a medical transportation service to get Ondelee to therapy, but the van provided a welcome means of freedom for everyday errands. Ondelee now feels stuck in his Bronzeville home.
"That van meant so much to us," said Ondelee, gesturing with his right hand, which he is beginning to be able to use again after many months of physical therapy.
"Sometimes God tests your faith," said his mother, Deetreena Perteet, who said she cries when she thinks about the stolen 1998 Dodge Caravan. "That was before all of this attention, and somebody went out of their way to do something nice for us."
The woman who organized the donation of the 1998 Dodge Caravan for the Perteets, Samariah Smith, 31, is now putting together a talent show to raise money for another van.
"He shouldn't have to sit in that house," said Smith. "If the van shows up, that's great, but by then we'll have a new van."
Ondelee, who smiles easily and has remained cool in the face of the media attention that followed the theft of the van, has spoken to Chicago Public Schools students about violence. He cites as his inspiration "my mama, God and (rapper) Lil Wayne."
"I get to tell young people not to follow down the path that the person who shot me went down," he said.
Ondelee said he will have to muster all of his courage for when he testifies against the boy accused of shooting him.
"I am afraid," he said. "It's going to be a big relief when the trial is over. I just hope justice is served."