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Theft of Vehicle Delays a Dream

A Manhattan Beach paraplegic is determined to take her performing arts program to Chicago even though her special motor home was stolen.

September 17, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

They stole her ride, not her drive.

That's the way polio-paralyzed acting coach Loree Lynn feels after the theft of a motor home she planned to use this week to launch a national performing arts program.

Lynn, 60, operates a nonprofit Manhattan Beach-based training group called DreaMaker's Center for the Aspiring Performance Artist. It offers instruction and counseling for individuals and for groups such as those helping to fight drug abuse.

She was due Friday in Chicago to lay the groundwork for expansion of the unusual arts program and to meet with a documentary maker who is planning a feature film about her life and her work.

Last month, Lynn purchased a handicapped-equipped 33-foot motor home that she and several assistants could use for the trip and during their Midwest stay. A mechanic was making minor repairs required in order for the vehicle to be insured when it was stolen.

"I was devastated. It was the most unbelievable thing that could have happened," said Lynn, who has delayed this week's scheduled trip.

No new travel plans have been set. But Lynn said she is determined to replace the motor coach and pick up where she left off in pursuit of her dream of giving DreaMaker's a national presence.

"To do it I'll have to travel a lot. When you travel, accessibility is tremendously costly," she said. "I have to have people to help me with planes and hotels. Just renting a car equipped with hand controls and a lift costs $1,000 a week."

The 1991 Kountry Star motor home had hand controls and a power lift for her wheelchair. Lynn purchased it Aug. 14 for $22,000.

Lynn said that when she learned that the coach needed minor repairs before it could be certified for full comprehensive insurance, she sent it to an independent Los Angeles mechanic recommended by one of her arts program participants.

The repair work was nearly completed Aug. 25, when the vehicle disappeared from in front of the mechanic's home on East 93rd Street in South Los Angeles.

"We had it all blocked in with a truck and turned off all the power in it. Whoever stole it was familiar with it.

"There was a certain way you had to turn the power on -- and they had to turn it on in the dark," mechanic Carlton Odom said.

"It was in good shape. It's sad for her. It's sad for me, too. I didn't get paid and I'm out at least $500."

Los Angeles Police Det. Jim Hoffman said there are no leads in the case.

The coach is described as off-white, with a slide-out room in addition to the power lift. It is unusual in that it has no passenger-side door. Its license number was 2XCV511 and its VIN is 2FCMF53G6MJA01230.

Motor home seller Jeff Renick, who said he paid $100,000 for the coach when it was new, said Tuesday that the vehicle had only 19,000 miles on it.

"I feel sorry for her. I was shocked when I heard they didn't have any insurance," said Renick of Riverside. "I use a wheelchair and I loved that motor home. I just didn't use it enough."

Supporters of Lynn said they hope to somehow replace the missing vehicle.

"Maybe an RV manufacturer can lend one for two weeks so she can at least go back there and get started," said one of them, Torrance firefighter Tim McAtee.

"There are creative ways to help situations like these. It's so unfortunate that her goal to continue her work is being set back."

Chicago filmmaker Detra Thibodeaux agreed. Her Rainy Friday Films Inc. is planning the documentary on Lynn. It would trace her from age 10 -- when polio left her a paraplegic and ended a promising dancing career -- through a lifetime of singing, performing and teaching.

"This is a devastating blow. This was going to be a huge turning point in her life," Thibodeaux said Tuesday.

"Loree has touched so many people. She's the real deal. She's not going to stop."

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