Westerville News & Public Opinion

Online community helps replace stolen bicycles

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Francis Kaumau (left) and Julius Kaumau stand with their new bikes at Xcel Martial Arts Studio in Westerville, July 23.

Every day, Francis and Julius Kamau, both 16-year-old sophomores at Thomas Worthington High School, ride their bikes from their home to Xcel Martial Arts Studio, roughly a 4-mile round trip up and down Schrock Road and other busy roads.

Instructor Debbie Confer described them as quiet twins, who are never late to attend multiple martial arts classes a day.

"They are really good students," Confer said. "They were getting ready to go to nationals and during one of the fitness classes, someone stole their bikes."

After a class, Julius went to grab his and his brother's bikes, parked on the side of the building, only to discover they had disappeared.

"I thought he was just messing with me," Francis said.

A fellow instructor at the studio sent a text message to Confer alerting her to the theft. She said it was strange, because many people are coming and going from the studio and no one saw the thieves.

"I thought, 'What? Someone stole bikes from a martial arts school?' " she said.

Confer said she called police, but officers told her there wasn't much they could do because the monetary value of the bikes was low.

She then turned to the martial arts community, other Xcel students and parents to help buy new bikes for the twins.

"If I could afford it, I would replace their bikes," she said. "So, I emailed our students and asked if we could raise money together."

Her daughter helped set up an account on GoFundMe.com, a crowd-funding site like Kickstarter, where people can make donations to a particular fund.

The community donated $625, which all went toward buying the boys inexpensive bikes from Amazon.com and Sears.com and the necessary tuning repairs.

Francis and Julius both said they were excited to pick out their new bikes, which are better than the ones stolen.

"I didn't expect it," Julius said. "There were a lot of different types of bikes, but I got the best one."

Confer said she is working to acquire a bike rack so the boys can store their bikes in the studio during classes.

She said she didn't want to put it outside for fear that it would be stolen, too.

The boys continue to attend as many classes as they can and compete in competitions.

Recently, both competed in the Amateur Athletic Union Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Julius received second place in sparring and third place in forms. Francis brought home the gold in both competitions, and left as national champion in his division.

Confer said she admires the boys' dedication and is happy they continue to come to class and compete.

"The boys are good boys and are very dedicated," she said.

"They try hard at everything they do," she said. "I am able to use them as examples for other students. It's so great to see kids that dedicated."