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July 1, 2004

Disabled man gets gift wheels from Powell

From: Billings Gazette, MT - Jul 1, 2004

Associated Press

POWELL (AP) - When Larry Ankeny dropped in at the Peaks bar on Powell's main street one recent afternoon and left his vehicle outside, it disappeared, and a brand new one appeared in its place.

It wasn't magic, but friendship and community that turned the trick.

A secret campaign spearheaded by Penny McCullough, who operates the McCullough Peaks bar with her husband, Steven, raised the money to buy the new tricycle.

The bright yellow trike replaces Ankeny's old one, bought for him by Larsen's Bicycles more than 16 years ago. The trike was his only method of getting around in Powell.

According to McCullough, after so many years of service, the trike was nearly worn out.

"It has held up very well considering the hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles he has ridden on it," McCullough said. "But the trike is worn out now and replacement parts for that old of a unit are not readily available."

A new Workman trike like Larry's, though, would cost over $1,200, and McCullough said Ankeny would never be able to buy the new trike himself. Disabled and nearly totally deaf since childhood, he lives on a modest disability income and money from odd jobs.

But Ankeny is over 50 years old now, and McCullough said he is unable to do some jobs he used to do.

"The jobs he is still able to do don't provide him enough extra income for much more than life's necessities," she said.

Ankeny's trike was also a necessity, though, so McCullough decided to get him a new one. She began a campaign she dubbed LA Wheels. With the help of Mike Christiansen, she opened an account at Big Horn Federal, placed donation cans in several businesses and appealed to Powell for help.

The campaign kicked off on April 14, and McCullough hoped to have enough money to buy a new bike and present it to Ankeny by the end of the year.

"Without having any idea how long it would take to raise the money, the first plan was to give it to him by Christmas," McCullough said.

That was before the donations began rolling in. McCullough doesn't have an exact count, but estimates that more than 100 people contributed, nearly all in small donations. Businesses and organizations chipped in, and several fundraisers at the Peaks, including a pool tournament, a fish fry and a jam session, brought in more money.

In less than six weeks, McCullough had enough money for the trike. Larsen's Bicycles took care of the ordering and donated the shipping costs as well.

The new trike arrived this month, and McCullough stashed it in the back room at Shotgun Red's Barbecue next door to the Peaks. When Ankeny showed up at the bar one afternoon, his friends spirited the old one away and wheeled the new one in to replace it. Then they summoned Ankeny out to take a look.

Ankeny was completely taken aback when he saw his new wheels, and the small crowd of his friends who had assembled had to urge him to try it out. At their insistence, he took off on a test ride, disappearing around the corner wearing a big smile.

In a matter of minutes he was back, and McCullough helped him put the license sticker in place. She showed him the bike lock included with the gift and received a hug of gratitude in return.

Now Larry Ankeny has new wheels, which should keep him riding around Powell for years to come, and McCullough is grateful to the Powell community for their concern and their generosity.

"The good people of Powell have once more stepped up to help one of their own," she said.

Larry's expression when he realized what his friends and community had done for him was all the thanks McCullough needed. It expressed his gratitude eloquently.

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