|Jonathan Vaughters has power-pedaled up the French Alps in the grueling Tour de France and has called bicycle superstar Lance Armstrong a teammate. Now he can say he's helping Durham resident Gail Brantley restore her faith in mankind. |
Brantley is the cancer survivor whose cherished bicycle was stolen from her home in the Willowhaven neighborhood on Oct. 25. The dual-wheeled vehicle was a constant reminder of her victory over a deadly disease, and was an emotional memento -- she was astride the bicycle in races to raise funds for cancer research, and the names of fellow cancer survivors were affixed on the bicycle. Some of those friends later died.
Vaughters, who knows a little about the determination of cancer-fighting bicyclists -- his former teammate Armstrong was a testicular cancer survivor -- is the Denver, Colo.-based director of the TIAA-CREF cycling team.
The 32-year-old retired professional bicyclist doesn't casually go about giving away expensive Javelin bicycles to total strangers.
That's where Branan Cooper comes in.
Cooper is a Duke University graduate living in Landenberg, Pa., who reads The Herald-Sun on the Internet to keep up with the community and his friends. He read about Brantley's misfortune in the Nov. 3 online edition. Though her plight pricked his heart, he was confident that the thieves would realize how dirty their deed was and return their plunder.
Days went by, and when Cooper did not read that the bicycle was recovered, he was unable to sit by idly any longer.
"Gail's story was so compelling," Cooper said. He remembers thinking, "There's got to be a way to do the right thing."
So he did what any modern-day bicyclist would do. He turned to the computer.
Cooper wrote e-mails to more than 200 people trying to get contact information for the makers of Cannondale bicycles. Brantley's stolen bike was a Cannondale. www.heraldsun.com/durham/4-667226.html