Man with terminal cancer’s last Christmas wish stolen, some stepping up to help

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For Rod Haning and his family, this is the most difficult holiday season of their lives.

“It’s my last opportunity, last Christmas probably,” Rod Haning says quietly. “Last opportunity to maybe get out on that longer trip before I go into hospice because of the pancreatic cancer.”

“I mean, I’m just devastated for him right now, with everything that’s been going on,” adds Haning’s daughter, Shelby Hernandez.

Haning, who’s 64, has been battling pancreatic cancer for three years.

But now, after 43 years of marriage, he and his wife Judy say they’ve decided on a difficult choice.

"We’ve just made the decision that he was going to go off his chemo, his cancer treatment because it wasn’t working anymore,” she says. “We got a hospice referral and decided we wanted to go someplace warm for Christmas."

With likely just months to live, Hanning hoped he and his wife could take the family RV to Arizona, something the couple had always wanted to do.

"Kind of important to get down there during Christmas because we’re meeting with my wife’s brother and we’d like to go before my health deteriorates too much,” Haning explains.

But the family says their holiday plans hit a big snag on November 22nd.

They say that’s when someone stole their RV’s catalytic converter from the Monticello repair shop where It was awaiting new parts.

“[We] called them and told them we’re going to pick up the RV because we don’t want to wait any longer for the part, we want to go on that trip,” Judy Haning says. “And they told us our catalytic converter had been stolen while it was on the lot and they didn’t know how long it’ll be to get it fixed.”

Hernandez believes ten other converters were stolen from the same location that same day.

"I just don’t know how somebody can steal somebody’s livelihood like that,” she declared. “Just not care and not feel guilt, and not worry what they’re doing to other people."

Authorities say thefts of the converters — an emission control device — are on the rise in the metro.

Eagan Police say they’re tracking more than 250 converter thefts so far this year — more than double the 112 thefts there in all of 2020. St. Paul Police say six of the devices are stolen in that jurisdiction every day.

Experts say converters are an attractive target for thieves because their special coating contains precious metals like platinum and palladium.

Police say thieves, using a jack and a saw, can work quickly, removing the converters and selling them to a scrap dealer for $500 apiece.

All of this frustrates Judy Haning.

“Apparently [the thieves] weren’t thinking about how it was going to affect the people that own these RVs, obviously,” she notes. “It’s affected our life and our plans and it’s going to affect our Christmas. This will be Rod’s last Christmas, I’m sure.”

It looked like the Hanings were stranded — except for a kind of holiday miracle.

Jim Caylor, a manager at Apple Valley Ford, saw some of Hernandez’s posts about the situation on social media and offered to arrange to have the Haning’s RV towed to his commercial shop on Monday.

"This person in Apple Valley stepped up and realized my situation and how time is critical, and he was willing to put me at the top of his list,” Haning says.

Caylor tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the Monticello repair shop has offered to pay the insurance.

He says he may have to order parts, depending on what model converter is needed.

That now, perhaps, there’s some hope the Hanings may be able to take that trip after all.

"I know that there are a lot people out there, you know I still have faith in humanity,” Hernandez says. “Lot of people out there that want to help and are able to help."

Caylor says his father and his best friend died from cancer — and that another friend is fighting pancreatic cancer.

So he wanted to do something.

A gift of kindness and hope — for this family facing hard times.

“It really is, because time is a gift for me right now,” Hanning says.

The family has started a crowdfunding page to help with expenses. You can find the link here.