Autistic boy’s missing-bike saga has a happy ending-Term life

ROCKLAND — Most days after school, Dillon Doyle runs into his house, grabs a favorite stuffed animal from his room, and dashes outside to ride his cherry-red, three-wheel bicycle.

Then he’s off, pedaling up and down the street with Elmo, Grover, or Chase, his stuffed police dog, riding in the basket. Dillon, a 13-year-old with autism, smiles and waves to everyone he sees.

But earlier this week, when Dillon went to get his bike out of the shed, it was gone. His 13th birthday present — the first bike that let him keep his balance — had been snatched away.

“Mama, where my bike?” Dillon asked plaintively. Dillon is in the eighth grade but has the verbal skills of a younger child.

His mother, Jeanne Doyle, helped him look, but had no luck. The kids on Damon Road helped, too, as Dillon and his mother drove around town, eyes peeled. After a while, they went to the Rockland Police Department to report it stolen.

“He really didn’t understand that something was stolen,” Doyle said. “All he knew was that his bike was gone.”

But this story would have a happy ending. Doyle posted on Facebook about what happened, and the post went viral. Offers to help poured in, from as far away as Florida. A girl from his neighborhood offered to give him her First Holy Communion money. An elderly woman from Peabody offered a three-wheel bike she had ridden only once.

“It was so wonderful, the way everyone wanted to help,” Doyle said Friday. “That’s not why I put it on Facebook. I really just wanted to get his bike back for him.”

That sentiment was widely shared. Dillon’s Special Olympics soccer coach ordered him a new 26-inch cherry-colored Schwinn three-wheeler, no questions asked.

Jeanne Doyle (left) was comforted by a friend as she read a signed card from students at Rogers Middle School.

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Jeanne Doyle (left) was comforted by a friend as she read a signed card from students at Rogers Middle School.

“There was no way I was going to let Dillon go without his bike,” Colleen Leonard said. “He’s on it every day.”

A businessman visiting the Boston area from Philadelphia saw the story on the news and called Doyle, saying he wanted to buy the family a new shed to store Dillon’s bike.

“He told me that he had a bike stolen when he was 12 or so,” Doyle said. “He remembered how he felt.”

On Thursday, after Dillon got home from school, the police called with good news. His bike had been found, turned in by a pawnbroker who realized that he had bought the missing bike the day it was stolen.

“I saw the story about the bike, and I called the Rockland police to say, ‘I think I have that bike,’ ” said Ben Ellis, the owner of Land of Electronics, a pawnshop in East Bridgewater. “They came over. I’m so glad he got it back.”

Dillon arrived at the station carrying Chase and two other stuffed animals. When police wheeled out the bike, he stood in silence, puzzling over how the bike wound up at the station. Then he cried out with joy.

“My bike! My bike!” he exclaimed, his mother recalled.

It was raining, but Dillon didn’t care. He wanted to ride. Through the puddles he sang, “My bike, my bike, my bike,” as his mother and brother, Matt, jogged the half-mile home.

“He was just so happy,” said Matt Doyle, 28, a special education teacher’s aide. “Every time he looked at the shed, he said, ‘Bike gone.’ ”

Police are investigating who stole the bike and say they have promising leads. “This type of crime really impacts people,” Lieutenant Nick Zeoli said. “You can tell how much he loves his bike.”

Dillon plans to give one of his bikes to a friend, a fellow Special Olympian, his mother said.

Inspired by the generous offers to help Dillon, Leonard has started a fund-raising campaign to raise $6,000 to buy 20 bikes for other special needs children, she said.

Leonard said she hopes to turn a bad situation into “an awesome outcome for many special individuals.”

At school on Friday, the day after Dillon got his bike back, his classmates gave him a card congratulating him on his bike’s safe return. “We are all so happy you have your bike back!” they wrote. “We hope you have fun riding it.”

When he got home, he played in the yard then jumped for a bit on his trampoline. Then he was off on his three-wheeler, Chase and others in tow. He challenged his brothers, Matt and Sean, to a race.

“C’mon!” Dillon said.

Dillon put his tricycle away in a front yard shed.

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Dillon put his tricycle away in a front yard shed.

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