Pam Gomsrud has been busy filling out thank you cards, but she can’t quite seem to find one big enough to express her gratitude.
“This has been amazing,” she said. “The response from the community has been overwhelming.”
In the Jan. 31 edition of the Whidbey News-Times, the community learned the story of 14-year-old Aaron Gomsrud, his mother Pam, and their twist of bad luck after waking the morning of Jan. 11 to find Aaron’s bike was stolen from outside their Oak Harbor home.
For Aaron, just like other teens his age, the bike represented youthful freedom. The bike — a blue BMX style with the words “GT Zone” — also represents health since Aaron has Cystic Fibrosis and needs exercise to maintain lung vitality.
But thanks to the generosity of a community Aaron has a bike again.
“We went to Tae Kwon Do that night and there was a new bike,” Gomsrud said.
The bike was courtesy of Aaron’s Martial Arts instructor, Greg Woodward, owner of Woodward’s Tae Kwon Do where Aaron is a recommended blackbelt and sometimes instructor.
Since then, Aaron has tested out the mountain bike Woodward selflessly gave him and finds it a good fit.
“It’s great,” Aaron said.
Having a bike again was unexpected for Aaron and his mom. They still aren’t sure if their sense of security is back after the theft. In fact, they’ve already spent close to $100 on security for the bike alone — including a new lock and supplies for a proper bike rack at their 8th Avenue condo.
What is back, however, is their faith in man.
“There are plenty of good people out there, not just the bad one who took Aaron’s bike,” Gomsrud said.
After their story was published, dozens of people called and e-mailed offering money or used and new bikes.
“That morning the story came out the phone started ringing,” Gomsrud said.
Callers gave tips on bikes they spotted laying around town that fit the missing bike’s description.
“Two people called saying they saw a blue bike near St. Augustine’s, but that wasn’t it,” Gomsrud said. “There was one near Dollar Tree but that wasn’t it either.”
The calls were a continuous flow to the News-Times office and the Gomsrud home. At one point Pam Gomsrud had to take her phone off the hook to get some peace.
Reiley Araceley e-mailed, “This whole thing just gets to me on how people can be so uncaring and heartless. My wife and I are blessed with three healthy children and my heart goes out to families with illnesses and other unavoidable situations.”
Capt. Dan Street and his wife, Lorena, wanted to help because Aaron needed his bike to stay healthy.
Feather Duster owners Ron and Linda Harris contacted Gomsrud, who often brings items to the consignment store, to see if they could help.
One woman chatted at length with Gomsrud on the phone and told her she wanted to remain nameless.
“She just kept telling me that he needed it, he needed a bike,” Gomsrud said.
This week Gomsrud is returning her $200 check to her along with a thank you card.
“Her generosity was unbelievable,” Gomsrud said.
And apparently contagious. A $300 check and letter to Aaron arrived at the News-Times office. When contacted about returning the check, the gentleman almost didn’t accept it back.
“Could they use it?” he asked. “Is there another cause you could think of that could use it?”
But Pam Gomsrud refused profusely. She wanted it clear: The family isn’t in need of money. They do fine on the day-to-day. Their money is just tied up in Aaron’s medical expenses.
“We’re lucky to have Children’s Hospital paying for a lot of his medical,” Gomsrud said. “I don’t know what we’d do with out them.”
Sean Donalty and his family were glad to hear that Aaron has a new bike.
“My wife and I have two small children, and we know the value that certain play items have for them,” Donalty said. “What’s important is that Aaron is out riding his bike, and having fun again.”
Although they were unable to directly give to Aaron, as other compassionate people stepped up before them, the family made a donation to the CF Foundation in his honor.
“Let Aaron and his mother know that we are rooting the CF researchers on, and wishing him well,” Donalty said.
The well-wishes even came from abroad.
Justina Jappert is deployed to Afghanistan, but she e-mailed the News-Times, “My cousin died of CF and in her memory my family would like to donate a bike to Aaron if he hasn’t gotten one yet.”
Vern Terry even offered to take Aaron fishing after he found out he had a new bike, Gomsrud said.
For whatever reason Aaron’s story touched them, people responded whole heartedly. If people wanted to donate money the checks were no small amount. If they wanted to donate support it wasn’t a five minute conversation but a lifetime of friendship.
So this week, Aaron is riding his bike once again. The Gomsruds’ faith in man is restored and Pam Gomsrud searches to find a card big enough to express her gratitude.
“There is so much generosity in this community. I could never thank everyone enough,” she said.