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Family victimized by vandals loses boy, 7, with cerebral palsy

Ian Hixson (left), 6, is carried to his family's vehicle by his mother, Heather Hixson, at District Judge Chuck Moore's office in Scottdale on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. Heather, Ian, and multiple supporters attended a preliminary hearing for two men who face charges for breaking into 30 vehicles in Scottdale, including the Hixsons'. The two allegedly destroyed a customized wheelchair made for Ian, who has cerebal palsy and an inoperable brain tumor.

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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Scottdale boy who garnered the support of an entire community when his wheelchair was damaged by vandals last year died late Tuesday night.

Ian Hixson, 7, who had cerebral palsy and was diagnosed in 2011 with an inoperable brain tumor, died at his home, according to his mother, Heather Hixon.

“Christmas was rough. The last two weeks, Ian was deteriorating. He was really, really sick,” Hixon said. “Nevertheless, we tried to spend every single moment with him. The most amazing gift you can get is love from a special-needs child.”

Her son loved to watch “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” videos, she said.

“The last few weeks, he stopped watching. So we read books to him. My daughter sat in his reclining chair and read to him every night,” Hixson said. She and her husband, Matthew, are also parents to Matthew, 11, and Sara, 9.

On the evening of Feb. 19, 2012, the Hixson family car was loaded for a scheduled trip to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. When the family awoke the next morning, they discovered their son's $5,000 wheelchair mangled and his medicine, ventilator and other supplies strewn around the vehicle and scattered through the neighborhood.

Scottdale police later filed numerous charges against brothers Christopher Prolenski, 22, of Scottdale and Dylon Prolenski, 21, of Vanderbilt in the incident. They are awaiting trial in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.

“God puts things in our lives and provides forgiveness for others. We all make mistakes. We met amazing people out of that,” Hixson said.

Community outrage about the incident led to more than $20,000 in online pledges to a website set up in Ian's name. The donations helped the family buy a van that could accomodate the entire family and all of Ian's medical equipment.

About a month after the wheelchair was damaged, a Sewickley company, United Seating and Mobility, delivered a replacement wheelchair for Ian

Hixon said help for her family continued as Ian's condition worsened. Her mother-in-law stepped in to make family dinners, and her husband's employer, the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon, offered financial assistance.

The kindness shown to her son by friends and strangers inspired Hixson and her family.

“So many people blessed us last year. I wondered how we could give back,” she said.

The family decided to ask for donations of books, puzzles and toys in Ian's memory.

Donations will be accepted all day Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Ferguson Funeral Home in Scottdale, director Rob Ferguson said.

A second drop-off site is at Hixson's alma mater, the Pennsylvania Institute of Health and Technology, near Uniontown.

Contributions will be sent to the oncology unit at Children's Hospital, Hixson said.

Hixson said the family wanted something positive to come out of their experience, and to acknowledge those whose lives Ian had touched.

“Let's continue his memory. That smile of his made everyone feel so loved and comforted. Ian made so many friends,” she said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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