Community helps replace stolen bike of well-known rider

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GILMAN, Ill. (WCIA) — An Iroquois County man’s bike was stolen while he was at a gas station. He has a new one now, but he didn’t just go out and buy it. The community got together to make this happen, and it’s all because of how much he means to them.

Bobby Rodriguez isn’t your every-day biker, although he is well-known for riding just about everywhere. But he’s also one of those people who, once you meet him, you immediately become his friend. This time especially, it paid off. One of his favorite spots to visit is a Pilot gas station on Route 24. Two weeks ago, his visit didn’t end well.

“I kindof felt shocked and kindof a little bit mad,” he said, recalling the moment he realized his bike was gone. “I was sitting in Denny’s on their WiFi, and I decided to come out to go home, and suddenly someone took my bike right there by the corner.”

“He came to me and said, ‘Hey have you seen my bike? Do you know where my bike is?'” said Pilot Flying J Travel Center General Manager Jeff Bartley. Bartley called the Iroquois County Sheriff’s Office.

“I received a call that a bicycle was stolen from the Pilot,” said Deputy Doug Brenner. “We looked for approximately a week and had no luck finding it at all.”

Brenner made it a mission to get Rodriguez a new one. He called Walmart in Watseka. They said they’d cover the cost as long as Brenner paid the sales tax.

“It makes me feel like very grateful that we live in a community like Gilman that people are willing to make an effort to help others,” said Rodriguez’s father Bob.

Pilot employees had also been gathering money for Rodriguez.

“It was a little over $150 is what we originally collected as a team here. I know, when the officer went to Walmart, they went ahead and donated the bike. So what we did is we turned it into a gift card,” explained Pilot Flying J Travel Center General Manager Jeff Bartley. Pilot employees told Rodriguez he could use the gift card to buy safety accessories for his bike.

Let’s just say, it made Rodriguez’s day. “I was really happy and I was like wow, a town you would think that would love me so much that would do this to me,” he said.

“The community is the hero. They pulled together. People were concerned for him. People who have met him. People who haven’t met him,” said Brenner.

Police are still looking for the bike that was stolen. They say it was just out of reach of the Pilot security cameras.

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