Editor’s note: This week we’re running some of our favourite people features of 2021, a reminder that even in difficult times good things happen. This one first appeared November 4.
The beautiful smile on Raquel Ferreira’s face says it all.
A stranger’s kindness has caused her to reevaluate a belief that Sarnia is full of takers and thieves.
“I’ve always thought there are not a lot of nice people in Sarnia,” said the 15-year-old Great Lakes student. “All we ever hear about are negative people.”
That felt true a few weeks ago when Raquel’s bicycle – one her grandmother had given her and she relied on to get everywhere – was stolen.
“I was at a friend’s birthday party and I put my bike in the backyard so no one would take it,” she said.
But it was stolen that night and attempts by Raquel and her mom Veronica Ferreira to track it down went nowhere.
“We called police but they didn’t come, so I filled out a report at the police station,” said Veronica.
The bike was a vintage beach cruiser Raquel’s grandmother had used as a teen herself.
“She gifted it to me and it was important to me,” Raquel said.
But her mom didn’t give up.
Veronica Ferreira sent a plea for help to a Facebook group called Stolen Bikes of Sarnia. Then she wrote a letter to The Sarnia Journal expressing her anger that bike theft is so rampant and there’s little anyone can do.
“Enough is enough. Our city needs to be cleaned up. Sincerely, a very angry momma bear,” she wrote.
Reader Mike Murray saw that letter and responded immediately with an offer of a new bicycle.
“I can’t stand to see something like that happen to a young girl,” said Murray. “I believe if you can do good, then do good.”
Murray’s initial plan was to provide a refurbished bicycle. For years now, the retired maintenance supervisor has salvaged old bikes heading to the scrap heap.
“We live in such a wasteful society,” he said. “I find them on garbage day with bad shifters or flat tires and I bring them home to fix them.”
This summer alone Murray has rebuilt four rides using a collection of spare parts he keeps in the garage. He fixes them up and gives them away to friends, family and wife’s co-workers.
But then he decided to do something extra special for Raquel.
“So I bought her a new bike,” he said. “I have standards and the rebuilt one wasn’t good enough for her.”
Veronica Ferreira said she cried when she learned of Murray’s generosity.
“I couldn’t believe someone who doesn‘t know us would take the time to help,” she said. “It’s amazing. Oh my gosh, how can someone want to help so much?”
“I am really surprised,” said Raquel, as she tried out her new Hiland mountain bike with disc brakes and 21 gears.
“I won’t take a chance with this one,” she said. “I’ll keep it in the house and make sure it’s safe.”