As It Happens

How the theft of this pitcher's prosthetic arm left him inspired

After it was stolen from his car, Parker Hanson's arm turned up at an unlikely place: a recycling plant.

Parker Hanson got his arm back after it was found at a recycling plant

Augustana pitcher Parker Hanson throws during a baseball game against Minnesota Crookston. Hanson, whose prosthetic arm was stolen from his vehicle, got it back after it was found at a recycling plant. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

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Parker Hanson has his prosthetic arm back, just in time for his next college baseball game. 

"All the stress is gone now, and we can just focus up and play the game," Hanson told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

A student athlete, Hanson is a right-handed pitcher for the Augustana Vikings in Sioux Falls, S.D., and was born without a left hand. 

He was reunited with the stolen prosthetic on Tuesday at an unlikely location: Millennium Recycling Inc. in Sioux Falls. 

A worker at the recycling plant recognized the arm after seeing local news reports about how the prosthetic and attachments had been stolen from Hanson's truck on May 3. 

"The first guy that saw it ... he doesn't have any social media, so he didn't recognise it. And so he was getting ready to throw it away, but then the other guy, he saw it all over the news and he got super excited, starting jumping up and down yelling, 'stop, stop, stop!'" Hanson said. 

'Heartbreaking moment'

Hanson said he was woken up on May 3 by his roommate, who told him their cars had been broken into. He quickly realized that his backpack, containing the prosthetic arm, was gone. 

It was a "heartbreaking moment," Hanson said. So he quickly wrote a post on Facebook, venting his frustration. 

"To the person in Sioux Falls last night who felt the need to steal other people's property, I hope those prosthetic arms and attachments bring you more use than they brought me," he wrote. 

Hanson said he wanted to get the point across that whoever stole his arm "took a part of my livelihood." 

Nate Riddle and Tim Kachel stand at the recycling plant where they found Parker Hanson's prosthetic arm. (Alfonzo Galvan/The Argus Leader via AP)

The next day, the Sioux Falls Police Department recovered a backpack with some of the prosthetic's attachments near Hanson's house.

By that time, his story had also taken off. He said it was shared nationally, and people were rallying around him to help find his arm. 

"It was just super humbling and it really, really rejuvenated me, just realising how much good is in the world still," he said. 

He started a fundraiser for a new prosthetic and the donations started pouring in. Then, on Tuesday, he received the call from his coach to go pick up his recovered arm at the recycling plant.  

It was just super humbling and it really, really rejuvenated me, just realising how much good is in the world still.- Parker Hanson

Nate Riddle and Tim Kachel were the workers who found Hanson's prosthetic Monday night while working a shift picking out non-recyclable items from the line.

"I recognized it instantly," Kachel said, "I was jumping up and down screaming 'Stop!'"

On the same day Hanson picked up his arm, he got even more good news: A Minneapolis-area hospital specializing in pediatric orthopedics was giving him a free replacement.

That's a relief for Hanson, who says his recently recovered arm is usable, but "definitely beat up."

He says he's developed a way to pitch without his prosthetic, but needs it in order to lift weights and stay in game-ready shape. 

"Luckily, I have an old arm that still fits. It's a little tighter than the other one, but I'm able to do most of my lifts that I need to do for baseball to stay in shape and keep my arm healthy," he said. 

Turning a negative into a positive

Now he's trying to turn the theft into a positive moment. He says that he's received messages from people all over the country who are inspired by his journey, and has even met up with some in person.  

"That's kind of what I want to do with my life too, is just be able to give back to others and use my platform that I have as a college athlete to maybe help motivate or inspire other people that are struggling or, you know, facing some obstacles in life, whether it's a disability or just something, that everyone struggles with," he said. 

He's still fundraising, but he says now all the money will be donated to NubAbility, which hosts sports camps for amputee youth athletes, and Shriners Hospital, to help other amputees get their own prosthetics. 

He hopes his story inspires other children who have lost limbs at a young age. 

"Sports is a big thing in my life, obviously so if I can help get kids involved in sports, I mean, that would be the ultimate goal of this whole thing," he said. 

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from the Associated Press. Interview with Parker Hanson produced by Kevin Robertson. 


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