Student’s bike stolen; Reddit user donates new one

A University of Illinois student who reported his bicycle stolen on Reddit last week says he was donated a new one that same day.

Eric Sylvester woke up Thursday morning just like he normally does. But when he walked outside, ready to ride to class, he noticed his bike was gone.

“Naturally, I freaked out a little bit,” he said. Sylvester’s exam was about to start but he had no wheels to get him there.

Frustrated, he took to the unofficial UIUC Reddit page, and wrote: “I hope you got so much pleasure stealing my bike from the back of my apartment… I missed my first ever college exam because of you and don’t have a way to get to class anymore. If you have any kindness in your heart please return it.”

Next, he filed a police report and waited.

In one day alone — September 20 — the University Police blotter lists five separate reports of stolen bikes on campus. It’s rare to see no bike thefts in a week in Campustown.

Sylvester didn’t have to wait long. Student Jonna Harris came across his Reddit post and responded, offering to donate her own bike.

“Once I reached out to him, he thought it was too good to be true,” Harris said. “And he thought I wanted compensation. And I told him, this is completely free.”

Coincidentally, the same thing happened to Harris last fall. She lost her bike, made a Reddit post and a stranger offered up a bike. The stranger was a bike collector and avid cyclist from Urbana.

“He had a bunch of bikes just sitting around,” Harris said. “He said, ‘I don’t want any attention, I just want to give you this bike. I know you really need it. And that’s something I still hold to my heart dearly.”

The experience seems to have had the same effect on Sylvester, who wrote a second Reddit post, saying: “Although I was pumped about the bike, the whole experience was so much bigger to me. That moment made me realize why I love this place.”

“I promise that people really do care and if you ask for help, they will provide you with some,” Sylvester said. “Especially after a year and a half of COVID and quarantine, it’s nice to have that human interaction again, face to face.”

Sylvester and Harris are still friends.

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