Gary Draper is really happy to have a bicycle again. It will allow him to get back out on the road raising thousands of dollars for the American Diabetes Association.
Despite being the victim of a hit-and-run driver ran on Center Street in Batavia on Thanksgiving Eve, Draper is ready to hit the road, doing what he's done since 1995 with great success -- soliciting donations for his favorite charity.
The hit-and-run driver, who has never been identified, put Draper in the hospital for eight days with bleeding around his brain, fractured check bones, a broken hip and back. He says he's fully recovered now and will hit the road, riding from Albion to Warsaw and Akron to Scottsville in his quest to garner more donations.
"I've been doing it for 15 years and I've raised $110,000 so far," Draper said this morning after taking a ride for the first time on his new bike.
The new bike itself is a story of community charity. It was donated by a Batavia police officer (who asked not to be identified). John Roche, owner of Adam Miller Toy and Bicycles, said the officer bought the bike years ago for his mother-in-law but she had stopped riding it.
P.W. Minor, Brach Machines and Tri-County Welding all donated funds, time and material to not only repair some broken items on the bike, but improve and enhance it.
"We know there were quite a few repairs that we didn't pay for that John (Roche) did," said Nancy Brach.
The repairs included re-enforcing the frame, adding more lights, a computer to track Draper's miles and a new paint job.
The one piece of salvageable hardware on the old bike was a seven-speed hub. It didn't quite fit the new bike, Roche said, so Dan Mattice "made it fit."
"As many miles as he rides, he needs those gears," Roche said. "Just a regular one speed or three speed wouldn't be enough. He'd be killing himself out there."
Draper said he estimates he puts on 2,400 miles a year on his bike.
Roche said Adam Miller repaired his old bike many times just to keep it going.
It's important for Draper to get back on the road, he said, because so many people will only donate if he comes around.
"A few people say they won't give to anybody else," Draper said. "When the Diabetes Association dials, they say, 'No, thanks. I'll wait for Gary Draper to come around.'"
Well, he'll becoming around soon, on a new black bicycle, a gift from his friends in the community. He said he plans to start his charity rides by the end of April.
Photo above from left: Nancy and Bill Brach, John Roche behind Gary Draper, and Joyce and Dan Mattice.
Photo below: Gary Draper asked for a picture of himself on the bike in profile.