Wasilla businesses rally to replace stolen special needs bike
Surveillance cameras at a Mudbusters Carwash Company location along the Parks Highway caught the theft of a man's bike on camera.
A group of people pulled up in the back of the Wasilla Burger King and waited until the coast was clear. They then stole the bike, which was locked up behind the restaurant.
The bike belonged to long-time Burger King employee Steven Gray. He is a very tall man so the bike was custom built for his special needs.
“I just had it winterized, big fat tires with spikes on it. Dual brakes, dual suspension, 21 speed,” he said.
Gray said he started working at Burger King when he was 16 years old as part of a job training program. When he graduated high school he was offered a full-time position.
Gray’s physical limitations from his fetal alcohol syndrome disorder mean he can’t drive. So for nearly 30 years, biking has been his main form of transportation.
“It helps me keep in shape and is something I can do, I concentrate on, so I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Workers at the Mudbusters next door said they frequently eat lunch at Burger King and know Gray for his upbeat personality. When they saw the footage and learned it was Gray’s bike that was taken, they wanted to do something to help.
“As the day went on it was right in the front of my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It tugged on my heartstrings,” said mechanic Dan Stone. “I reached out to a handful of people that I knew. A coworker of mine, Johnny, and I got together and we were able to raise $450.”
They gave the money directly to Steven, who used the funds to help pay for a new bike at the Alaska Bicycle Center in Wasilla.
“Making a bike for him, we wanted to make sure that it was comfortable so we started with a frame set and built it up for him,” said owner Richard Clayton.
Clayton has known Gray for years and built the bike that was stolen. He said other people have stopped by to drop off money for Gray’s new ride and his shop donated several hundred dollars in parts.
Clayton said the total price tag was about $2,000.
“I realize the importance. This is not a traditional bicycle relationship with him to go out and get exercise. This is his life; it’s how he gets around,” Clayton said.
While Gray was planning to pick his bike up after work on Wednesday, staff surprised him during his shift at Burger King. Workers from Chaz Limited across the street also came out and cheered as he scoped out his replacement.
Gray didn’t ask for the help, but is glad there are people who were willing to pitch in.
“It shows that people do care, people do have hearts and in this kind of crazy world it’s kind of unusual that people do care. A lot of people don’t care,” he said.
“It’s such an honor to be able to give Steven his bike back and be able to give him the ability to ride in our community again,” said Reese Clayton from the Alaska Bicycle Center.
Gray said the money his family and the businesses raised paid for the cost of the bike itself, but he still needs to make some upgrades to help him get through the winter.
Anyone who wants to help can drop off donations at the Alaska Bicycle Center at 201 West Nelson Avenue in Wasilla.
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