Businesses in Leighton Buzzard demonstrated the tremendous community spirit that exists in the town with an emotional presentation to a 10-year-old victim of crime.
George Challis was distraught when the bicycle he’d received as a Christmas present was stolen from the town centre shortly after 4pm last Monday (June 18).
The bike had been secured with a lock to a lamppost in Hockliffe Street, but after returning for it after a haircut, the Leighton Middle School pupil was gutted to see it had been stolen.
But when kind-hearted business owners learnt of the theft they spread the word via their Shopwatch group on Facebook and in next to no time the cost of a replacement bike had been pledged.
In fact, after raising the money, Halfords donated a bike free of charge, so the funds have now been spent on annual passes to Thorpe Park for the whole family, a new Arsenal shirt for George, a bike lock, and a balloon.
On Thursday, a surprise presentation of the gifts took place at Cee Jay in Hockliffe Street.
Mum, Kelly, said her son had been overwhelmed by the gesture.
“When he came home he said on the phone to my mum ‘nanny, it felt like Christmas’,” she said.
“His first reaction was he thought his bike had been found, then he realised it was a new one. He was absolutely over the moon. He is quite shy so I think he got a little bit embarrassed.”
She added: “We felt a little like DIY SOS, where ‘thank you’ doesn’t really cover it at all. It’s so nice. It’s such a beautiful story. Everyone who I’ve told it to has cried. People don’t do things like these nowadays. These aren’t big companies. People do need to say ‘let’s go to town and spend our money’, rather than go in to the big shops.”
Lucy Schulz, at Cee Jay, was one of the people who helped organise the fundraising.
She said: “Poor George returned from having his hair cut to no bike. One of my customers alerted me to this and after communications via our Shopwatch group on Facebook and George’s parents, someone was arrested.
“However, the bike was not retrieved, it had already been sold on. So as a community we decided that if we all chipped in, we could buy a replacement bike for George.
“As a community of local shops we wanted to restore his faith in humanity a little. At 10 years old, this must have been an awful experience. We wanted to show him there are good people out there as well as bad.
“We have been forced to form a close network due to the lack of police presence in the area and we are very proud that this has not only helped lead to an arrest but also give George his wheels back!”
The theft was witnessed by Matt Brown at Espresso Head.
He told the LBO: “I was closing up and heard a loud bang. I saw the offender breaking the lock off and taking the cycle.
I dialed 999 within five seconds of him cycling past me.
“They sent someone out straight away and I posted it on the Shopwatch group to say what happened. They arrested him, but the bike wasn’t recovered so that’s why we decided to give him (George) a replacement. He was distraught and it’s nice that everyone has been working together to help. Tom at TK Furniture said he’d loan him a bike, then someone suggested we all chip in and the idea spread to the businesses.”
As well as the bike from Halfords, donations were received from: Cee Jay, Ultimate Jaguar (Hockliffe), Sorelli Cafe, Rubies Shoes, Espresso Head, Get Up Clothing, Mc Accounting, Martini’s Restaurant, Yours Clothing, Reasons to be Cheerful, The Bald Buzzard Brewery, Jo Alexander, Rising Phoenix, Perfect Parties, and Cllr David Bowater (Deputy Mayor).
> Beds Police confimed that a 44-year-old man from Leighton Buzzard was arrested on suspicion of the theft and that he was released under investigation.