PALMER — For 10-year-old Dwayne Coleman, the first ride back on his bike was the ride of his life.
Coleman was the recipient of good Samaritans on the internet who helped bring his bike back after it had been stolen. Coleman’s mother, Alana Link, posted that her son’s yellow three-wheeled bicycle with a black basket had been stolen from their home in Palmer. Within two days, the post had been shared hundreds of times, and within a week Dwayne was back on his bike.
“He wanted to fly off of the stairs at the police station. He couldn’t get down fast enough and he went and he was helping take the tarp off the thing. He‘s like ‘my bike! my bike!’ His smile was priceless,” said Link.
Dwayne lives with cognitive disabilities and vision impairment, and is legally blind. He attends Sherrod Elementary School just down the road from his home in Palmer, and enjoys riding his three-wheeled bicycle after he returns from school. The bicycle was a gift Dwayne received last Christmas from his grandmother, and has character details of being put to good use. Dwayne has a Palmer Police Department sticker on the bicycle and a custom brake that his mother Link installed when the original brake broke.
Link noticed the bike was missing on Sept. 19 and posted to Facebook after filing a report with the Palmer Police. A television station in Anchorage picked up the story, and family members of Nicholle Lafazio alerted her that they believed the bike she had just purchased had was the stolen bike from the story. Lafazio got in touch with Link and was able to return the bike at the Police Station where Dwayne was able to ride again.
“She responded so quickly, I was beside myself. I was like what do? Do I call the police or do I go get his bike?,” said Link.
Coleman has already been through tough tribulations in his young life. He survived a car accident last year, and riding his bike down the street from his home is one of the only forms of exercise he can do.
“He’s basically just a happy kid. He says hello to everyone of his classmates at school. He’s just one of those kids that reminds you how he can just find good and happiness in simple things,” said Coleman’s teacher at Sherrod, Terri Bellah.
A community has rallied around Coleman’s love of riding on three wheels and responded willing to help. Bellah set up a fundraising website prior to the bike being found that is still active. Lafazio not only returned Coleman’s bike, but her employer wrote a check for Coleman to get improvements. Lafazio had been searching for a bike with a basket to take her aging dog out on bike rides, and another good Samaritan on the internet who had offered a bike to Coleman ended up gifting it to LaFazio. First on Coleman’s wish list is a loud horn for his bike.
“People are awesome. It kind of restores my faith in humanity,” said Link.
Coleman is happiest when he is on his bike, riding down the small stretch of gravel road in front of his home. He has made friends with the neighbors down the street who gifted him a lock for his bike. Not only has it made Coleman happier, but Link says that neighbors have slowed their traffic in front of their home because of how active Coleman is on his bike.
“I was in tears actually,” said Link. “I don’t think he fully grasps what happened.”