Tracy Ellis’ bike means everything to him.
The black three-wheeled bike, with its white basket and orange safety flag, is a regular sight around Oberlin — or was, until a thief stole it Sunday.
Ellis was inside Rust United Methodist Church on Groveland Street. When he left, the $600 bike was gone.
“I want them to go to jail,” he told us Monday, his voice quiet.
Ellis, 50, has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder. His mother, Pat Scott, said his bike is his only means of transportation to work and around town.
Those diagnosed with the disorder typically experience growth delays and intellectual disabilities. The condition is caused by the presence of an extra copy of a specific chromosome.
“He is helpless without his bike,” she said. “He has orthopedic braces on his ankles so he can’t walk anymore. Everything he does is on this bicycle. He even goes to the mailbox with it. It’s like a car for him.”
The youngest of four children, Ellis has always been called “the star of the family,” Scott said.
“Everybody in the country knows him,” she laughed. “You can’t go to the mall or anywhere else with him because everyone will say, ‘Tracy, is that you?’”
Ellis has worked at Lorenzo’s Pizzeria for about 30 years. He used to wash dishes and do prep work until he started having physical problems, said Maurice Wyman, his coworker. Now he folds pizza boxes three days a week.
“You’re not going to find a better guy,” he said. “He gets along with everybody and I’ve seen him come in here with birthday cards for people. He has a really good memory with dates. One time, he wished me a happy birthday and I forgot it was even my birthday.”
You have to be a really unfeeling person to steal a bike from in front of a church, Wyman said, especially knowing that the flag is an indicator of a slow-moving driver.
Feeling a tug at her heart-strings, Oberlin resident Rachel Gallion started a campaign on GoFundMe.com. Before the funds were raised, Larry Cariglio, owner of Lorenzo’s, pledged to purchase Ellis a new ride.
As of Tuesday afternoon, $1,365 had been raised in less than 24 hours, surpassing Gallion’s goal of $650.
Anyone with information that could help police track down a suspect is urged to contact the police department at 440-774-1061.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.