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Brooklyn nonprofit replaces 12-year-old girl’s stolen electric wheelchair

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NEW YORK — A few weeks ago, CBS New York reported on a 12-year-old Westchester County girl with a spinal cord disease whose wheelchair was stolen.

Since then, the community has stepped up to help.

At the Christian J. Santo Legacy Foundation’s Winter Wonderland celebration in Brooklyn, Aliyah Rivera was the guest of honor Saturday night.

“We want to wish you the best,” Billy Santo said.

The foundation gave Aliyah a brand new electric wheelchair to replace her old one, which police say a man stole from her Westchester County home two weeks ago.

The gift left Aliyah in tears.

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“It makes me feel really happy that there’s actually people out there, wonderful people, that actually care,” she said.

Aliyah couldn’t go to school or spend time with friends after her wheelchair was stolen. She says she relies on a wheelchair because of her polio-like disease.

“When I was 13 months, I was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis. It’s an inflammation in the spinal cord,” she said.

Billy and Karen Santo started the foundation in memory of their son Christian, who died of heart failure at the age of 27 in 2020.

When they heard about Aliyah’s story, they knew they had to help.

“We asked her which one do you want, she sent a picture of it, we got it,” Billy Santo said.

“It’s more secure and I can do more things in it,” Aliyah said.

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The Rivera family says several days after her story aired, the man caught on tape brought back the wheelchair and their daughter’s laptop.

“I didn’t press charges since we got the stuff back,” said Archangel Rivera, Aliyah’s dad.

Rivera says she’s spending the donated money on equipment like crutches to make her life easier.

“I decided to take the wheelchair that we got back and another from when I was younger to give it to them so they can donate it and give it to people in need,” Aliyah said.

The home of Billy and Karen Santo in Brooklyn covered in elaborate Christmas lights and decorations.
The home of Billy and Karen Santo in Brooklyn

CBS New York


Aliyah also helped count down the lighting of the Santo home.

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The couple call it a stairway to heaven for their son, whose baseball jersey was #9. They also had a necklace made for Aliyah with that number.

“The number nine is in the Bible. It’s a guardian angel number,” Karen Santo said.

Aliyah says she doesn’t believe in coincidences

“I was born on August 9th, too. It will always be my lucky number,” she said.

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Source: CBS

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