Chance meeting inspires a two-wheeled fundraiser
This story starts with a chance encounter, a photograph and, like so many things these days, with Facebook.
Matthew Ford hopes it ends with a new bike for someone who apparently has a lot of fans around Rosemount.
The man’s name is Frank. Ford doesn’t know his last name, but he’s seen the man for years, riding a rickety mountain bike with a distinctive orange flag along County Road 42. He’d see the bike parked behind the drive-through menu at McDonald’s, where Frank worked for a while. And he’s seen him riding as far away as Burnsville.
“I remember seeing him when I was really little,” Ford said. “I always just thought it was weird I grew up and kept seeing this guy.”
Earlier this month, Ford saw Frank again and had the sudden urge to meet the man. So, he stopped, got out of the car and introduced himself.
“He totally just jumped right off his bike and was like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’” Ford said. “It was blistering cold and he was riding his bike.”
It was a short conversation, but Ford noticed Frank’s bike was in rough shape. He didn’t think about it much at the time. He snapped a photo of the two of them together and went on his way.
Later, Ford posted the photo to Facebook and got a surprising response. Many of his friends recognized Frank. They’d seen him come in to the businesses where they worked. They saw him mornings at the Holiday gas station and remembered him holding the door for others.
At some point, a friend suggested Ford help Frank buy a better bike. The idea stuck.
Ford knows a thing or two about the power of a good bike. He started riding when he was 4, and he grew up racing BMX bikes at Buck Hill. He still performs with a BMX stunt team, and he has photos of a ramp he and his friends built, then used a truck to pull themselves over at 45 miles per hour. He earned the nickname 5th Gear Ford for his full-speed approach to riding.
With the bike idea lodged firmly in his mind, Ford did a Google search for fundraising and found fundly.com, a crowdsourced site that lets users set up funding campaigns. He created one called Frank’s New Bike! and in the first seven days he raised $825.
The ultimate goal is to raise $2,000 to buy a Surly Pugsly, a balloon-tired bike that has become popular among people who ride in the winter in Minnesota.
The campaign has become a bit of a mission for Ford, who said he’s never done anything like it before. He’s reached out to local bike shops, and to Quality Bike Parts, a Bloomington-based company that is one of the country’s biggest bike part distributors. He’s spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter and watching his fundraising page obsessively.
“I’m on my phone with it, checking it on my phone at work, getting yelled at by my boss,” he said. “I’m trying to give away a mountain bike and I’ve never felt this excited about something ever, something that doesn’t necessarily have to do with me.”
Ford’s Fundly drive will run for 51 days in all. The plan beyond that isn’t entirely clear. Ford doesn’t know for certain Frank wants a new bike. He’s not even sure how to get in touch with him again if the campaign is successful. He’s hoping someone who knows Frank will see the story and get in touch. He’s confident he’ll track him down somehow, though.
“I think it means enough to me I’m not worried about it,” he said.