HOW DO YOU repay someone who saved your child's life?
That's the question that has consumed Philadelphia Police Officer Erica Forston since a few Good Samaritans put their lives, and cars, on the line for her 11-month-old son, Chase, on Nov. 30.
On that Saturday morning, Forston, 33, had just stopped by to check on her mom's house on Firth Street near Emerald in Kensington while she was out of town.
Forston noticed a woman sitting on her mom's stoop, so she left her 14-year-old niece in the back seat with her son to move the woman along and check on things inside.
Moments later, Forston heard her niece yelling for her and ran out to see the young girl dangling halfway out of the car. The woman who had been sitting on the stoop sped off with her son still strapped in the back seat. Her niece, who fell out of the car, was mostly unharmed. But Chase was gone.
Across the street, Franklin Shipley, a 34-year-old contractor, had stopped home between jobs to put some oil in his minivan. He heard Forston screaming, "My baby! My baby! Somebody took my baby!"
Shipley ran outside, saw Forston and a neighborhood man running after the car, and jumped into his own car. Another driver joined the pursuit, and after a hairy chase, he and the other driver boxed the car thief in.
Chase was wide-eyed in the back seat, but safe. Shipley held the woman down until police arrived.
"I've seen plenty of people turn away when someone needed help," Forston said. "What they did was unbelievable. They didn't know me or the situation. They had no idea if that woman had a weapon. But they heard my screams and helped me and my baby. How do you thank someone, how do you repay them for that?"
Police arrested Minnie Collins, 22, and she was charged with kidnapping, theft and related counts.
Shipley, a father of four who sat in front of his family's Christmas tree as Forston retold the harrowing story, repeated what he's told her all along: "Erica, you don't owe me nothing. I'm just happy that I was able to help."
But Forston can't let such selfless courage just stand - especially since the heroism cost one Good Samaritan about $700 in damage to his car and cost Shipley the only vehicle his family has, and he needs it for work. His 15-year-old minivan had to be scrapped after the motor blew. Both men had limited insurance for their older vehicles, and Forston, whose car was barely damaged, isn't sure if her insurance will cover their losses.
Forston, who also has an 8-year-old son and raises her niece, isn't in a position to make the guys whole. But, she says proudly, she is in a position to tell people about "Chase's Heroes." Forston, a breast-cancer survivor, wasn't sure she would be able to have more children when she was diagnosed in 2010. But then came Chase.
"There's no amount of money that will show my gratitude," she said. "But I just want to do something. I have to do something. They blessed me, and now I want to bless them in some type of way, even if it's to make sure their Christmases aren't ruined for helping me."
On Saturday, Forston is holding a fundraiser at Erie Lanes, 1300 E. Erie Ave., from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets are $20 and include bowling, shoes and food. She's also asking people to bring unwrapped toys to the party.
Shipley just smiles when Forston talks about the fundraiser. Borrowing a relative's car to get to work isn't ideal. And with Christmas just a week away, buying another car isn't possible - especially with four daughters ages 2 to 15 to buy presents for.
But Shipley has no regrets. "Life's not easy. Things happen and you have to build it back. I've lost vehicles before and I work to get them back. That's what I do, I work to get what I got, and I'll do it again."
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel