Brendan Yu
Curry Coastal Pilot

A group of Coast Guard members have given Alexis Saunders and her 13-year-old Sam a little more reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving: a new bike.

It started last Wednesday, when Alexis pulled up to pick up Sam outside of Azalea Middle School and noticed his bike was missing from the bike rack.

“I thought, that’s kind of odd,” Alexis said. “Maybe he left early? I waited and saw him walk out, and he had this shocked look on his face. I called him over to me and he goes, ‘Someone took my bike.’”

The two went into the principal’s office, whose staff was equally surprised, as the bike rack is located right outside the office. Moreover, Sam had secured his bike with a lock, while other bikes were left unsecured.

After filing reports with the police and the school, a crestfallen Alexis posted a description of the bike on the community Facebook page “Brooksville”, asking locals to contact her if they spotted the bike.

An hour later, Alexis received a message from Brandon Bowne, a member of the US. Coast Guard Station in Harbor, asking where she had purchased the bike. After learning it was from Walmart, Bowne asked Alexis not to buy her son a new bike, as he and his coworkers would do that.

“I was really overwhelmed and shocked and just surprised that someone would do that,” Alexis said. “That’s just so generous and nice. I’m not used to — where we came from, a big city (Fresno) — not used to that happening. It’s just not a normal thing.”

The stolen bike was a Christmas present for Sam last year, but it wasn’t until the family moved out of the city and into Brookings that he finally had a chance to ride his bike on a daily basis.

Bowne told her that he and his friends — Roma Waln, Jacob Riopelle and Isaac Poole — would have the bike to Sam by Friday night, if not, Saturday. In the meantime, Alexis was offered another bike from someone on Facebook, but she declined the offer, explaining that the Coast Guard was already on it.

Sure enough, on Friday night, Bowne, alongside Waln and Riopelle, arrived at the Saunders’ residence with a brand new bike, much to the delight of Sam.

“I felt really surprised that they brought me a new bike,” Sam said. “I had no clue they were even doing that; I didn’t know if anyone else would do that for me, but they were really nice and they did that for me.

“I was very appreciative and thankful for them to do that for me.”

Bowne was overcome with a sense of relief upon seeing Sam’s reaction.

“(I) and the other guys always had a bike when we were growing up,” Bowne said. “And if our bike had gotten stolen it would’ve probably felt like the end of the world when we were that age.”

Waln empathized with Sam’s situation and added that helping others in their time of need was simply the right thing to do.

“I just remember growing up, I’ve had some stuff stolen too,” Waln said. “It wasn’t just sad for me as a kid but for my parents as well, and how they worked to buy me new things so I wouldn’t be sad. So to take the stress off (Sam’s) parents, we kind of took it upon ourselves to send it and give the bike to the kid to make sure everything was good in the (household).”

After delivering the bike, the Coast Guard members invited the family to tour the station whenever they were in the area. And as for the new bike, Sam said he was getting a heavy duty chain this time around to prevent future thefts.

“It was just, if you will, a Thanksgiving,” she said.