Single dad's desperate plea after 'lowlife scumbag' steals special needs son's iPad

A community has rallied around a single father who appealed for help after he says his special needs son’s iPad was stolen from their car.

Owen Evans just turned 12 and he has an inherited disorder called Cohens Syndrome, and he relies heavily on his iPad to communicate.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, Cohens Syndrome can be characterised by “developmental delay, intellectual disability, small head size and weak muscle tone”. 

While Owen’s father Ben, 44, and his son were at the shops on Friday, Mr Evans said a “lowlife scumbag” stole the boy’s iPad out of their car.

Ben Evans' special needs son Owen relies on his iPad, which the father says was stolen from their car while shopping. Source: Supplied/Ben Evans

Mr Evans explained to Yahoo News Australia, Owen’s eyesight is very poor and he is generally unable to sit still for long periods of time.

The iPad Owen uses has a number of apps which aid his learning and allows him to engage at his own pace and communicate.

Mr Evans says the iPad isn’t a replacement for Owen’s learning, but it is utilised as a support.

The father also says Owen can become quite distressed without his iPad.

Given Mr Evans is Owen’s carer, the iPad also gives the boy something to do, which means Mr Evans has time to spend with his 16-year-old son, so he isn’t always excluded.

“It’s a key device which enables the whole family to function,” Mr Evans told Yahoo News Australia.

Mr Evans lives in Lilyfield, in Sydney’s inner west, in a housing commission and is currently seeking a more stable living situation, so replacing Owen’s iPad is not an option for the single father.

Mr Evans is a single father with two boys and says his son's iPad helps keeps the family functioning. Source: GoFundMe

Strangers’ generosity after online appeal for lost iPad

When he shared the story in an inner west Facebook group, Mr Evans was inundated with responses from people offering to help.

Mr Evans told Yahoo News Australia he shared the post about 7.30pm (local time) on Friday and by 8pm he went to Summer Hill and back with a new iPad for Owen.

“So within half an hour of making the post we’re at home with an iPad, which is phenomenal,” Mr Evans said.

As the night went on the offers kept rolling in and Mr Evans says he has been offered about 80 iPads as of Saturday morning.

As Owen takes the iPad between his mother’s house, school and his father’s home, it was decided the family would accept two other iPads gifted to them, so one device could stay in each location.

Owen (left), 12, has Cohens Syndrome – a rare inherited condition. He also has an older brother, 16-year-old Joel (right). Source: Supplied - Ben Evans.

Mr Evans was humbled by the support he received from the kind strangers of Sydney’s inner west, noting it was particularly generous as sometimes being a parent of a child with special needs can be isolating.

“You can’t go to the park and talk to the other parents because you are 100 per cent focused on your child. You rarely have friends over because you’re 100 per cent focused on your child,” Mr Evans explained to Yahoo News Australia.

“It’s also isolating because you don’t want to be burden on people, to ask for help and support.”

Mr Evans told Yahoo News Australia he had a pretty miserable week leading up to the theft, but he was blown away by the support of the community.

“I’ve seen the worst of humanity and the best of humanity in the space of two days,” he said.

“It’s amazing.”

‘Let’s help this single dad out’

After seeing the Facebook post, Sheena Barnes set up a GoFundMe to help Mr Evans get Owen a new iPad.

The two are complete strangers to each other, but Ms Barnes decided to use her initiative and help out Mr Evans as she herself has benefited from community support through the fundraising platform.

Although she saw people were offering Mr Evans iPads, she told Yahoo News Australia she thought he could definitely use a bit of extra money.

“An extremely challenging few weeks lay ahead for Ben and his financial position will not allow any immediate replacements,” Ms Barnes wrote on the GoFundMe.

Mr Evans was desperate to get Owen's iPad back as he uses it to communicate. Source: Supplied/Ben Evans

“Let's help this single dad out and put a smile on his and Owen's face so that they can afford a new iPad and any incidentals he may be facing over the next month.”

Right now Mr Evans is trying to find a way for people to donate iPads to institutions or organisations who care for individuals like Owen and may benefit from technology.

The father also said he was reluctant to accept the money which has been donated to him through the GoFundMe and was yet to link his bank details to the account as having money raised for him was never his intention and he had already received the iPad, which was what he needed in the first place.

Regardless, Mr Evans intended on communicating with Ms Barnes about the money raised.

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