HALL COUNTY, Ga. - One family's planned celebration of
its son overcoming cancer turned into a holiday of searching Lake Lanier.
The family's $35,000 boat was stolen just as the summer began.
Mark Cooley told Channel 2's Tony Thomas he parked the boat so it was ready for maintenance to be done once the repair shop opened in the morning.
Morning came, the boat was gone. And so were the plans of a little boy who's overcome so much.
As the boats passed on Lake Lanier Monday, Chase Cooley looked out on the lake, hoping he could spot his family's missing boat.
"It has a bunch of memories and I just want to have fun on it," Chase told Thomas.
Chase spent the last three summers fighting leukemia. He didn't have enough energy to play with his big brother on the lake, but that was going to change.
"He's just been through so much and I just like to see him be a normal kid and feeling good," said DeeDee Cooley, Chase's mother.
But when father Mark dropped the boat off at their repair shop for maintenance, it was closed. He parked it outside the locked gates. The family said surveillance video from the business shows a man in a black truck drive by several times about 7:30 a.m. the next morning.
Later, the video shows the man backing up to the boat and hauling it away.
"We think he just said, you know what-- I'm going to see if that boat is locked up and see if it's available and that's what we think happened," Mark Cooley said.
So family members spent the holiday weekend handing out fliers, putting up signs and looking for their boat. They believe the large decals along the side of the boat have likely been stripped off to not give the stolen boat away.
"Hopefully somebody will have seen it," Mark Cooley said.
The family rented a boat for a few hours this weekend to search. The family has insurance but
says it won't come through until the boating season is almost over-- and so will be Chase's rebound summer.
"I'd like to say do the right thing, return it, because it isn't his," DeeDee Cooley said.
The family is offering a reward for the return of the boat but they received some good news on Tuesday.
The people at Paradise Boat Rentals at Port Royale Marina saw the story on Channel 2 Action News and offered the Cooley's a boat rental so they can enjoy the lake and search for their boat.
"We do great business so we like to give back. We decided to give them a boat rental to allow them to go find their boat," Brian Teeters said.
Paradise Rentals said the Cooleys can use the boat on weekdays until they find their own boat or the summer ends.
If you have any information about the missing boat, please call the Hall Co. Sheriff’s Office at 770-531-6885.
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