TIAA-CREF donates bike to cancer survivor

Jonathan Vaughters TIAA-CREF team has donated one of its Javelin team bikes to Gail Brantley, a cancer survivor from Durham North Carolina whose bike was stolen last month.

Brantley was heartbroken when her bike was stolen from her home in the Willowhaven neighbourhood of Durham on October 25. More than just a bike, it was a symbol of her survival and subsequent participation in fund-raising rides for cancer research. It was decorated with the names of 50 other cancer survivors. "What that bike means to me it can't mean that to anybody else," Brantley told the Durham Herald-Sun after the bike was stolen.

Enter Branan Cooper, a Duke University graduate from Landenberg, Pa who read about Brantley's plight on the Herald-Sun's website. Touched by Brantley's bad luck, Cooper set about trying to get her a replacement, initially contacting Cannondale, the makers of Brantley's stolen bike.

Cannondale offered to co-ordinate a publicity campaign to get Brantley's bike back, but did not feel able to supply a free replacement as the company gets many such requests. However, as stolen bikes are often stripped, repainted and rebuilt to disguise their origins, Cooper did not think there was much chance of finding Brantley's bike, even with the offer of a reward of a Cannondale mountain bike for the bike's return.

Cooper seemed about ready to give up when he heard from TIAA-CREF director Jon Vaughters. Vaughters is a former team-mate of cycling's most famous cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, so Brantley's story hit home.

Vaughters told the Sun-Herald that his team gets 30 to 40 bicycles a year from its bike sponsor. Those bikes are usually sold at the end of the year, but Vaughters decided to give one to Brantley. "It seems like the right thing to do instead of selling the bicycle to someone," Vaughters said.

All of this had been going on behind the scenes, with Gail Brantley unaware of the generosity of strangers that was being harnessed to her aid. She said she was shocked -- grateful, to be sure, but shocked -- when she received the good news from Cooper.

"I am very honoured that they would do that," Brantley said. "It's nice to know that there are kind people and it's not all people that would steal bicycles."

Vaughters is sending the bike to the Bicycle Chain in Durham to be set up for Brantley, where owner John Koester offered his help in getting Brantley back on the road. Meanwhile, Cooper, despite orchestrating a flurry of emails and phone conversations to make all this happen, is taking a back seat. He did admit, though, "It's great to see the cycling community rally to help a cancer survivor."

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