KEARNS — For 15-year-old A.J. Garrick, his blue, three-wheel bike means the world to him.
But someone stole it Tuesday, and his family is pleading for its return.
For A.J., a teen with autism, that bike provides a sense of routine and independence. It also holds great sentimental value. His father died of a heart attack last year, and the bike was one of his last gifts to his son.
"It's his everything,” said Yvonne Masse, A.J.’s stepmother. “It's his dad, his dad he misses the most." She said he doesn’t understand where his father is.
The loss of the bike has been really hard on him, Masse said. “Changes for autistic children are so, so hard, and this is one of several major changes he’s had.”
Someone took it from Masse’s home near 5500 South and 4400 West Tuesday. It was hidden behind a trailer, but the thief saw it anyway.
"The bike was parked just right up here in the yard, and the gate was closed,” she said.
This is the second time A.J.'s bike was stolen. Two years ago, someone took his bike from the same yard. Despite offers from people to replace it, A.J.'s father went out and bought him the blue one.
"It's A.J.'s favorite thing. He's autistic and that's his independence."
"It's A.J.'s favorite thing,” Masse said. “He's autistic and that's his independence. He's got set routes that he can go on. He loves that."
A.J. stays with his stepmother on the weekends and when his mom is at work. People know him in the neighborhood. They also know he loves his bike.
"He's asked every day, 'Where's my bike? Where's my bike?' We've been out, and we've driven every road on the south side of (5400 South) looking for it, seeing if we can find it anywhere here,” she said.
She didn’t know if he was targeted, or if the person just needed a ride. The bike isn’t valuable; it’s just a big, adult-size three-wheel bike that is missing a spring in the seat. It’s also pretty worn down, as A.J. uses it every day.
The family filed a police report and has posted fliers around the neighborhood. They are offering a $50 reward.
A.J. and his family hope the person who took it will have a change of heart.
"Can you please bring bike back?" A.J. said.
Contributing: Vivianne Vo-Duc