When the bicycles and tricycles were stolen from a shed behind Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose about two weeks ago, P.E. teacher Brian Ward was thinking the worst about humanity.
On Wednesday, he was thinking the best.
"There's a lot of good people out there," he said.
Ward was talking about people who ponied up about $3,000 after they saw an NBC Bay Area report last week about the stolen bikes, and who wanted to pitch in to help. Ward thought he needed about $1,500 to replace the dozen or so adult-sized bikes and trikes used mostly by disabled and autistic children at the high school. A thief cut a lock on a shed behind the school sometime over the April 28 weekend. The bikes, Ward said previously, helped raise the students' self esteem and were often a treat after their regular workouts.
After the news report, the donations started pouring in.
Sue Runsvold, the founder of TurningWheels for Kids in San Jose, was one of the people affected by Ward's story.
She posed to a challenge to her Facebook friends, asking them each to donate just $5. One man sent her $500 instead. And the money kept flowing, from other sources as well.
TurningWheels For Kids is able to get bicycles for about half price, and Runsvold said she'll be able to sell about 15 bikes to Ward for about $120 a bike. Her group's mission is to make sure deserving children, especially disabled ones, get bicycles.
On Wednesday, Runsvold was overseeing a project to give about a dozen tricycles to Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Jose, so their children could have something fun to ride on at school.
Ward is expecting the delivery of the bicycles soon, as soon as he can figure out how to better lock them up. And he's hoping he'll have enough money to buy more for other schools in the East Side Union High School District.
"This is more than I anticipated," Ward said. "I'm hoping to spread the program to other schools."