CLEARWATER — A friend said Wednesday was the first time he had seen amputee Lloyd Brooks smile in weeks.
Brooks, 58, appeared in the Tampa Bay Times last month, begging for the return of a $600 custom tricycle that was stolen from in front of his home while he slept. Without the trike, Brooks was largely confined to his home and unable to receive a new prosthesis specially designed for the trike.
After Brooks' story ran in the Times, more than three dozen people contacted the newspaper and his prosthetist Mark Logue, who helped his patient set up a bank account for donations.
Altogether, roughly 20 strangers contributed sums ranging from $1 to $600 — for a total of nearly $2,300.
Brooks received the tricycle and new limb Wednesday.
"This is a pipe dream I had," the Largo man said. "Thank you very much."
Surprising Brooks with both items was an elaborate affair.
Logue, owner of Clearwater Limb & Brace, teamed with Chainwheel Drive, a Clearwater bike shop, to unveil the tricycle during a ceremony that mimicked the once-popular television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Brooks was invited to Logue's office under the guise of an appointment to finalize measurements for the new limb. After a tutorial on how to walk and sit, he was escorted outside, where a Chainwheel Drive box truck was parked.
At Logue's cue, the truck drove away, revealing the tricycle.
Gripping a cane, the Army veteran teetered ever so slightly on his new prosthesis with the shocks, rotators, American flag motif shaft and white tennis shoe-covered foot.
Brooks nodded, then quietly sat down, cautiously admiring the bicycle as Logue strapped him in.
A half-dozen onlookers squealed, laughed and clapped in surprise as Brooks took off, quickly pedaling away and executing a turn.
"When he got on that bike and I saw him use his new leg, I was just amazed. All the pieces came together," said Dottie Jessup, co-owner of Chainwheel Drive, which ordered, assembled and delivered the $1,500 red Trailmate Joyrider trike and accompanying CoPilot covered trailer for free.
Logue said the community outpouring allowed Brooks to purchase an upgraded version of his old, used trike. The newer version includes a handbrake and three-speed capability, which makes it easier to navigate steep hills and safely cross streets.
The donations also upgraded Brooks' quality of life.
Brooks used the remaining $700 or so to pay some bills and buy a few items of clothing and other necessities. He also got his hair and beard professionally trimmed — for the first time in 10 years.
Brooks has big plans for the new trike: Job hunting. Watching dolphins play at the beach. Riding all 38 miles of the Pinellas Trail.
But first, he said Wednesday, he wanted to take a 2-mile spin through the neighborhood between his home and Logue's office, and pick up a hot dog along the way.
"Alright, Lloyd. You think you can ride into the sunset on this thing?" Logue asked.
"I think I can," Brooks said, shifting in his seat to adjust himself.
Then with a smile, he pedaled up a small hill, down the road and across the street, waving as he rode out of view.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.