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Jack Knox: Girl's gumption brings out cyclists' Christmas spirit

Cyclists impressed by a Central Saanich girl’s pluck in riding her clearly too small Disney Princess bike almost two kilometres to school each day banded together to buy her a new one.

Sandy Szabo was impressed.

Every day, while driving his school bus through Central Saanich, he’d see this little girl powering her way down the road on her bike.

That’s not something you see that often anymore, not like when Szabo was growing up. Back then, parents would wave good bye to their children as they left the house in the morning and not expect to see them again until supper.

Yet here was this eight-year-old on a Disney Princess bike that was obviously too small for her, and that appeared to have a broken pedal, riding almost two kilometres to school every day, rain or shine.

It’s that last bit that really got to Szabo, who belongs to a group of long-distance riders who regularly log 10,000 kilometres or more each year on bikes that cost in the high four figures.

As cyclists go, they’re pretty hard-core, but even they have limits. “The last week of November when we had the snow and the raging winds, most of us took three or four days off.”

Not the plucky Central Saanich girl, though. “She rode every day,” Szabo said. “That day with the high north winds, she rode right into it. Had to stop and regroup a few times but she never quit. Heart of a champion.”

Szabo and his buddies figured someone showing that much gumption deserved a reward, maybe a good rebuilt bike in her size. What they ended up getting, though (after receiving the blessing of the school district) was a good deal on a new seven-speed Norco from Brentwood Cycle. Pink, of course, because that’s Ramsey Frombach’s favourite colour. They also got her a pink helmet, a basket, lights ….

Ramsey had no idea this was coming. Last weekend, her mother, Kelsey, just told her that they were going to the Marigold Cafe, where a group of cyclists wanted to meet her. Szabo figured surprising Ramsey with her bike might make the riders happier than it would make Ramsey, though the girl herself probably disagrees. “It was awesome,” Ramsey says.

Kelsey was pretty pumped, too. Having grown up on mountain and road bikes in hilly Nelson, she had taught her daughter how to ride two-wheelers and how to do so around traffic. She had also wanted to get a replacement for the bike Ramsey had outgrown, but that had proved to be a steeper climb for a single mother.

“Trying to find a used bike at a reasonable price wasn’t the easiest,” she said. So, yes, to have this new ride appear out of the blue was most welcome.

More than that, though, it meant the world to be shown that sort of kindness by strangers who just wanted to do something nice for someone they knew little about.

Kelsey cried when she learned what Szabo et al had done. What a great lesson for Ramsey, whom her mother describes as a bright, sunny child. What an affirming message after a couple of tough years in which people haven’t always treated one another as well as they could, Kelsey says.

“It’s one of those stories you read on the internet,” she says. “It always makes your heart feel good, but you never expect to be part of the story.”

Yes, we do read stories like that, and there are many more just like them that go unreported, particularly at this time of year when people allow their more generous selves to shine through — inevitably finding, as Szabo said, that being the giver can be as uplifting as being the givee. If that’s a cliché, it’s because it’s true, Charlie Brown.

It’s Christmas Eve. You’re probably not ready. All those last-minute tasks you were going to get done this week fell through the ice when Mother Nature turned Saanich into Siberia, so maybe you’re stressed.

Maybe, having remembered what you forgot to get for dinner, you’re peering out the window at the weather, wondering if anyone will mind if you skip the brussels sprouts (no, they won’t) or the cranberry sauce (yes, they will).

Maybe the people you were going to share the holiday with are still stuck on the other side of the strait. There’s no shortage of stuff to frown about at the happiest time of the year.

But there are also, when we remember to be kind, plenty of reasons to smile.

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