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Dead wheelchair revived by random act of kindness

9:02 AM, Sep 12, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The new year had just started, and 16-year-old Austin Davis was bringing in 2012 with a very bad day.

"I called my dad and told him I died," Austin said. Then laughed at the description.

"We'd been having problems with the battery on his wheelchair, and it was a cold day," his stepdad Chris Salon said.

Chris was at home sick, battling the effects of chemotherapy. Austin was walking his dog along a rural highway in Hiawassee. He was on a stretch of road with no sidewalk that connects his house to town. Suddenly, his wheelchair died.

"I turned it off because it recharges over time. I was hoping that I could turn it on and scooch back home," he said. That's when his bad day ran into a few surprises.

Driver after driver stopped to see if he needed help. "It was pretty amazing. I got done saying 'Yes, I'm OK, and the next person would ask. There was like a line! The third cop car pulled up, and I thought this is not good. I'm going to get arrested for dying on the side of the road!"

Georgia State Patrol cars controlled traffic until Chris arrived and picked up his son.

"I was concerned about his safety, but at the same time, I didn't want to limit his mobility," Trooper Gary Diggs said. "Austin is a 16-year-old boy, and this is like his car."

Diggs had done his duty and gotten Austin off the road and home safely. But he just couldn't stop thinking about the teen. "It's just something about a boy and his dog. I guess you could say I had a soft spot for them," he said. "And it was kind of inspiring to me. You know, there he is on the side of the road. He's broken down, and he was happy!"

So Diggs, his fellow troopers, sheriff's deputies, and police officers in Towns County raised money to keep Austin safe. Besides a new, more reliable battery, they wanted to make him more visable. They hooked up flashing LED lights to the top, sides and back of the wheelchair.

"Have you seen the chair?" Diggs asked. "You can't miss it!"

When Chris heard Governor Nathan Deal had read a proclamation naming a day in August as the official "Random Act of Kindness Day", he sent us his story.

"I tell everybody I can tell because it's just a wonderful story of somebody who is taking care of people in their community," he said.

Today, Trooper Diggs has been reassigned to the capitol. He still thinks about Austin, and hid random bad day that brought them together.

"I've always been taught that you reap what you sow," Diggs said. "Times are tough and it's hard for one person to make a big change, but if everybody gives a little, you can make big things happen."

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