After losing contest, Jacksonville comes through for money for girl to get bike

By Jim McCabe on March 28 at 1:09pm

It turns out a Jacksonville girl will get a new bike, after all.

The community has pitched in to purchase an adaptive bicycle for 13-year-old Jacksonville High School freshman Rachel Buhlig, who has Down’s syndrome.

Buhlig had been entered into a national contest sponsored by the Michigan-based Friendship Circle organization to win the bike, but didn’t win.

With 13 of the 700-dollar bikes being given out, Buhlig’s mother Laurie explains that the family thought getting enough support to finish in fifth place- nearly 2,000 votes- would mean they won a bike. Instead, only the top vote-getter won outright, with the other 220 entrants being selected randomly.

The contest ended on Tuesday.

Laurie says she was “heartbroken,” but she reached out to a friend- Joe Thomas, the owner of Club 217 in Jacksonville- to see if he could help.

Amazingly, Buhlig says Thomas raised over a thousand dollars- enough to get the bike and other necessary equipment- in a little over an hour on Thursday after he posted a message on Facebook.

“He stepped up in a way that completely amazed me. I’m at a loss for words; people that I don’t even know have stepped forward, made donations, offered to do anything they can to help Rachel get this bicycle, and I just want to say a huge heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone that supported us to get Rachel this bicycle,” says Buhlig.

Thomas says he was somewhat surprised by the speed of the donations.

“I know from experience that when you get involved in doing these fundraisers like this and trying to raise money, when you put the first little bit of money, it just seems people just take off with it after that,” he says.

He adds that he had to turn people away.

“People were calling me and emailing me and asking, ‘we got $100,’ ‘we got $100,’ and I just kept telling people, ‘we’ve got it,’ ‘we’ve got it.’ People are still kind of persistent about donating,” Thomas says. “So, I told them to contact Laurie, and if Rachel needed anything for the bike, from baskets to knee pads, elbow pads, whatever, than Laurie would let them know.”

Buhlig explained previously that the adaptive bike will help with Rachel’s mobility as she suffers from physical ailments brought on by the Down’s syndrome.

“I will be able to say to her, ‘we got a bike.’ She will be beside herself; she was so looking forward to it,” she says. “Jacksonville steps up when people need things like this.”

Buhlig says the money should all be collected by the weekend, and she hopes to order the bike on Monday.