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College Pitcher Whose Prosthetic Arm Was Stolen Says Community Support Has 'Rejuvenated' Spirit

·3-min read

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A college baseball player in South Dakota is thanking fans for going to bat on his behalf as police continue to search for the athlete's prosthetic arm, which was recently stolen.

Parker Hanson is a right-handed pitcher for Augustana University whose artificial limb and other must-have attachments for the prosthesis were stolen from his unlocked car near the Sioux Falls college campus around 5 a.m. local time on Monday. Hanson valued the belongings — packed in a backpack — between $15,000 and $25,000, Dakota News Now reports.

"It's only for me. I'm the only person in the world that can use that arm," the senior told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader of the specialized prosthetic.

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A neighbor's surveillance system caught the break-in on camera, which Hanson shared to Facebook and with law enforcement in hopes of identifying the thief. The following day, the Sioux Falls Police Department found the tan Nike backpack on the side of the road near Hanson's home, according to the outlet. It contained some of the prosthesis attachments, which the athlete said he was "very happy" to get back, but the actual prosthetic arm is still missing.

A spokesperson for the Sioux Falls Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on the investigation into the theft.

Though frustrated, Hanson is making the best of a bad situation by staying positive and plans to use the support he's received online to make a difference.

"I've had people from all walks of life reach out hoping I get my stuff back, praying for whoever took it, it rejuvenated my thoughts on how much good there really is in the world," he told the Argus Leader of the outpouring of local support.

Hanson was born without a left hand, and said he's been wearing a backup prosthetic in the wake of the crime, though it isn't quite as comfortable as his preferred one.

The pitcher said he was humbled to have many people express interest in donating to a GoFundMe page to pay for a replacement arm, but he's unable to get such a campaign up and running at the moment, as NCAA athletes cannot accept donations.

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If the limb is still missing when baseball season ends in a few weeks, Hanson said he'd be grateful for any support. He also pledged to donate any leftover funds to a local children's hospital and related organizations, he wrote on Facebook.

"We're in the process of trying to figure something out, whatever funds I don't need I'm looking to donate back into the community or charities that help people with disabilities," he told the Argus Ledger.

Moving forward, Hanson said he's been touched to hear from parents of children with disabilities, who have asked if he'd be interested in meeting their kids as a friend and new role model. In response, the baseball player has even invited some of the families to visit him at upcoming practices.

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