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Bemidji ‘wheels up’ for Blayne; Facebook users donate to replace boy’s stolen toy

By Trent Opstedahl

BEMIDJI — Melissa Anwiler Hron had just told her 3-year-old son, Blayne, his brand new, battery-powered four-wheeler was stolen from the front porch.

She notified police, and acting on a lingering thought, she posted a photo of Blayne riding the four-wheeler to a Facebook page called “Bemidji Area Online Sale,” a virtual Bemidji garage sale, hoping someone might have seen the stolen toy.

Within minutes, locals started responding to the post, and soon, monetary donations were flooding in to purchase a new four-wheeler for the boy.

“One small act of kindness has just erupted into something so much bigger,” Anwiler Hron said. “It’s a miracle.”

Since Anwiler Hron’s post to the Facebook page Sunday, more than $300 has been collected to not only purchase a toy four-wheeler for Blayne, but two new bicycles for Anwiler Hron’s other two sons, ages 9 and 10.

Jackie Johnson and her daughter, Ashley Beaulieu Souder, have been spearheading the fundraising project, and were the first to suggest money be pooled together to help the family out.

“I don’t know the family at all, but I just know how it feels to have something stolen from you, and the little boy looked so happy on the four-wheeler and I felt so bad someone had taken it from him,” Johnson said. “I talked to the mother (Anwiler Hron) wanting to know if she had any other kids because I didn’t want them to feel left out.”

Supporters are planning to meet with Anwiler Hron from 5 to 5:30 p.m. Friday evening at Lueken's Village Foods South to present Blayne with the newly purchased red toy four-wheeler, Walmart gift cards for the two older children to purchase bikes and locking chains to protect the items from thieves.

Johnson estimates between 20 to 30 people have been involved in donating money between the amounts of $10 to $70.

“It means a lot to put a smile on this boy’s face,” Beaulieu Souder said. “If it was my little boy and the community helped him, I would be so happy that people cared enough to help.”

Moving from Grand Rapids to Bemidji in September for a nursing job, Anwiler Hron said she cannot believe the kindness she has experienced from the community.

“I would just like to say thank you to everyone and I’m in awe,” she said. “We’ve been having some frustrating times, and this is just a miracle.”

For Beaulieu Souder, seeing the effect her community’s kindness has had is payment enough for her efforts.

“Knowing you’re putting a smile on someone’s face just feels good,” she said.

Johnson said she is excited to see the response Blayne has to seeing the toy four-wheeler, and hopes he realizes “while there are bad people out there, there are also good people out there, too.”

“It’s not anything I’m a professional at, but there a lot of good people out there to help if you just ask, and I want people to know that,” Johnson said.