Things have never come easy for Bridget Kuhlman, but that has never stopped her from having a fighting spirit and positive attitude. Kuhlman has cerebral palsy, which has caused her to not be able to drive a car, and walking for extended periods of times can cause severe pain. Because of that, Kuhlman used a three-wheel bicycle to get to her job at Arby’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
One day, Kuhlman showed up to work on her bicycle and parked it next to the fast food restaurant’s dumpster outside. It’s where she had always parked her bicycle for two years, and it seemed like the perfect spot since the dumpster was in a fenced-in area that was locked. Unfortunately, one night, thieves entered the area and cut the lock, stealing Kuhlman’s bicycle in the process.
It was a devastating loss for Kuhlman, who was trying to come up with ways that she could get to work. “I was very shocked and I lost it,” she said. “I was crying because I’m like ‘What am I going to do?’” The good news for Kuhlman is that the store manager, Angie Takes, was willing to help out. Takes set up a crowdfunding page for Kuhlman so that she could get a new bicycle, and made the first contribution herself.
This was pleasant news for Kulhlman. “Yes, I lost my bike and yes it’s not right. But I’m glad I have a boss who got (a fundraiser) started even with her own family,” she said.
Kuhlman had originally bought her three-wheeled bicycle from a pawn shop and Takes was hoping that the fundraiser could provide her with an even better one. “Bridget goes to the laundromat with her bike. She does everything with her bike,” Takes said. “She has two dogs and gives them ride on her bike. It was something I had to do.”
Though people weren’t sure who it was that swiped the bicycle from the restaurant, the focus was solely on getting Bridget a new bike. On the crowdfunding page, the goal was set at just $350. However, people started to take notice on social media and started donating large sums of money. After just a few days, there was nearly $6,000 raised by donors.
It was more than enough as the community rallied around helping Kuhlman. She and Takes were in disbelief, and Takes responded to those donors. “We have raised more than enough money,” she said. “We are getting the bike from Northtowne Cycle and Fitness, they are very generous and giving us a discount. The rest of the money will be used to get Bridget’s bills paid off and put extra on her gas and electric bills along with new clothes and shoes for work (and) a good coat for winter…Thank you everyone.”
The cycling company delivered the new bicycle to Kuhlman, and it’s clear that it was of the highest quality. With a pedal assist system, it’s much better than the bike she was used to riding around on before. Kuhlman wasn’t the only one that was pleased as local residents were overwhelmed by the support. “I am completely, utterly amazed at the outpouring of love this city has shown in the last 24 hours,” one donor said. “Just beautiful. God bless everyone who was part of this.”
As for Kuhlman, she says “I was speechless. I’m still speechless. I don’t even know what to say.” Derek Stepanek of Northtowne Cycling and Fitness also made sure the bicycle had a battery-powered motor that will make things easier for Kuhlman. He was also happy to make sure that there was a discount for her.
“It’s a real powerful gift that all the donors were able to help Bridget and get her a bike that is an improvement over what she was riding,” Stepanek said. He was there to show Bridget how to use her new bike, taking it for a test ride in the parking lot. “It was very overwhelming. Very thankful, but overwhelming knowing that many people would respond” she said.
Now, Bridget has the ride that she needs with money to help keep her going, all while restoring her faith in people after it has been lost following the theft of her bicycle. Some of the extra money is also going toward a bike lock that won’t be able to be broken, making sure that Bridget is able to comfortably ride to work for years to come.