Big-hearted folks respond to theft
Tammy McCarthy from Gearheads in Petawawa, left, joins Lindsey Cupelli and Kathy Perras, right, in presenting Petawawa teen Chad Wilson-Morrison with a brand new bike, purchased with money raised by the community after word spread that his old bike, a gift from his late father, was stolen in November.
When thieves made off with Chad Wilson-Morrison's bike on the night of Nov. 17, breaking a backyard fence in the process in order to circumvent the lock, they stole more than just two wheels and some metal.
The bike had been a gift for Chad from his father, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer, and had infinite sentimental value for the Petawawa teenager.
That's why Chad mother, Vikki Wilson, took to social media when she discovered the theft, posting a notice on a local Facebook Group, "Petawawa 24/7 Yard Sale" - primarily a buy-and-sell group with more than 10,000 members.
Wilson says that she originally hoped that the thieves would reconsider their actions and return the bike if they heard what it meant to Chad, but something almost as good, and almost as unexpected, happened instead.
Fellow group member Lindsay Cupelli was so touched by the story that she decided then and there to raise money to buy Chad a brand new bike. Just as she was considering the logistics of such an effort, Kathy Perras stepped in to help, offering space in her business, the Healing Room in Petawawa, for a fundraising jar and a poster.
"I'm from a military community," explains Cupelli, "and have had friends who have lost people overseas. I knew he couldn't just go out and buy a new bike with his dad."
From there the pair expanded their efforts, both spreading the word on the Facebook group and around town, collecting nearly $450 in a week of fundraising.
Cupelli and Perras then approached Gearheads to pick out a bike, and were offered a good price along with professional advice.
On Wednesday evening, Dec. 5, the duo met up with Chad and his mom there to present him with a brand new bike and helmet.
"I'm excited," said Chad with a wide grin, "and very thankful, too."
For Perras, the community effort wasn't about trying to erase or substitute for the sentimental value of the stolen bicycle.
"I know we could never replace the memories of the old bike that his dad had bought him," she says, "but now he can have some new memories with this bike."
Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.