Boy with illness gifted with new wheelchair for Christmas

14-year-old battling spina bifida receives gift from Jacksonville police

Author: Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2012 10:12:54 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 24 2012 09:50:00 AM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

As the old saying goes, it is better to give than to receive this holiday season. For a Oceanway boy battling a debilitating illness, Christmas came a day early.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Officers presented 14-year-old Tristan Sprouse on Monday afternoon with a new wheelchair and lots of gifts. Police all chipped in to help raise the money.

Sprouse said he was excited about it and can't wait to take it out on the streets. He said it's definitely something he's going to use everyday.

The officers gathered outside had been waiting for this day for a long time.

"We were going to put something on there to stop you (Tristan) from popping wheelies, but you like to pop wheelies every once in a while, and I think that's a wheelie popper," said Assistant Chief Bobby Deal.

For Sprouse, this Christmas gift means more than any toys he could have gotten. The teen has battled muscular dystrophy since he was born. It's left him paralyzed from the waist down.

His family, dealing with losing their home in a fire, couldn't afford a new wheelchair for him.

"My last one broke, but this is the first one that has actually been given to me," said Sprouse.

Shannon Judge is the assistant principal at Sprouse's school, Ocean Middle, and saw a need to help out.

"He goes to our school and his normal wheelchair was broken," said Judge. "Last year in seventh grade, we had the custodians try to fix it the best they could. But they didn't have the parts. So, they were wiring stuff together and duct taping stuff together."

Judge asked her husband, a lieutenant with JSO, if police could get involved. And they did.

Zone 3 officers, who patrol from downtown to Mandarin, pooled together their money, and bought a brand new, custom built wheelchair for Sprouse. They also hooked him up with enough clothes and hats to last him a very long time.

"You are a real trooper and all of us admire you," said Deal.

Doctors expect Sprouse to get out of the hospital soon. Sprouse said he can't wait to go back to school and show off his new wheels and gifts at Oceanway Middle.