Community members in Calexico, California, rallied together to help one of their longstanding residents, a 57-year-old man with Down syndrome, after his bicycle was stolen.
For years, Gerardo “Eddie” Paez has been a Calexico community fixture. He has lived in Calexico for approximately 28 years, and is often seen riding his customized, low-riding bicycle — his primary means of transportation.
He rides his bicycle in the Christmas parade each year, and is an eager participant in the city’s annual celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.
Community organizations have given Eddie a key to the city and have recognized him as honorary chief of police for a day.
“Everybody in the community of Calexico, they love him,” David Paez, Eddie’s nephew, told Imperial Valley Press. “From business owners to grandmas, everybody knows him. I don’t think Calexico would be the same without him. He is Mr. Calexico.”
So when Mr. Calexico’s bicycle was stolen from outside a local 99 Cents Only store, Eddie and his fellow community members were distraught.
Eddie used his bicycle every day as his primary mode of transportation. David Paez described the chrome, $500-dollar customized lowrider bicycle as his uncle’s “whole world.”
“He’s really careful with his bike,” David Paez said. “He won’t let anybody ride it. His bike is everything to him.”
Some people have no heart, I don’t get how someone can steal a bike. Especially from someone with such a pretty soul.
No voy a hacer corajes, se me hace tan bonito que la gente ayudàra https://t.co/SYqmZI5RjF
— Cisco Berrones (@CiscoNeverMind) September 25, 2019
Eddie promptly reported the stolen bicycle to the police. As word of the cruel theft spread, community members began raising money to buy Eddie a new bike.
Within one day, community members donated over $1,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to replace Eddie’s bicycle. At the same time, Eddie’s childhood friend, Fernando Tamayo, bought his old friend a new bike and had it shipped from Las Vegas.
Now, Eddie is looking forward to having not just one, but two bicycles to ride and enjoy.
David Paez said his uncle was thrilled when he told him the good news.
“He was all happy, yelling through the phone. Knowing him, he’s probably going to be riding them both,” David Paez said.
He added that Eddie is an independent and hard worker, who would have earned the money for a new bicycle himself if he needed to.
“He would’ve put it on himself to save money to get a new bike,” Paez said. “He would’ve gone out there, worked at Cuchis and the barbershop — he wouldn’t stay sitting down. He always worked for what he wants.”
Not only will Eddie have two new rides to sport around town, but he will also carry the love and camaraderie of his friends in his heart.
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