Two Palmer Junior Middle School students who had their bicycles stolen while attending classes are now hitting area trails and bike paths with new Trek mountain bikes thanks to a word-of-mouth donation from Backcountry Bike and Ski Shop in Palmer.

The bikes were stolen while parked in the school’s bike racks. The first incident occurred Aug. 15, the second day of school for Mat-Su students. The second incident occurred the following week. One culprit was caught on school security cameras and is believed to be either an older teen or adult. There is no footage of the second theft.

The new bikes were a collaborative effort of several people. Kristin Wolf is a counselor at the school and also works part-time at Backcountry. Wolf said she had mentioned the incident to Backcountry owner Tony Berberich.

“My passion is bicycling. It broke my heart,” said Wolf. “I was working (at the shop) after the first bike was stolen and I told Tony about it. It was just in conversation. It’s one thing to steal a bike. But to steal a bike from a kid?”

PJMS eighth-grader Nathan Halk said his BMX was taken the second day of the new school year. His mother Stefanie Clark said she had warned her son about riding the bike to school without a lock.

“I thought it would be safe for one day,” Halk said. He said the bike was taken about a half-hour before the end of the school day.

Seventh grader Aiden Bailey said it appeared his Diamondback mountain bike was taken midday.

“A friend went out to put a bike lock on his bike and mine was still there,” said Bailey. “I was going to cross-country practice and saw it had been stolen.”

Berberich said kids usually have a hard enough time just getting to school. He echoed Wolf’s feelings on the culprits making off with the bicycles.

“I went to school (at PJMS),” Berberich said. “I thought (the thefts) sucked. Getting to school is sometimes hard and the fact that they were stolen is pretty crappy.  My first thought is that it’s something that we can do.”

Berberich said he talked the idea over with his crew at the shop and everyone was in favor. With that, he sent letters to the boys’ parents and had them stop by in order to determine a proper frame size.

“We’re hoping they are going to be advocates,” Wolf said about the boys. “There are still bikes without locks.”

“Neither bike was locked up on the bike racks that we have,” PJMS Principal Brad Allen said. “We have worked with Palmer Police to identify the individuals and have reported this incident to them to investigate… they have let local bike shops know in case they have any persons selling bikes or parts to them. So they are keeping an eye out for that.”

Allen said school staff and administrators have talked to students to remind them about securing their bikes while in class.

“The school has purchased some locks for students that may have forgotten theirs at home; they can check out one of the locks to secure their bike that day and then turn the lock back into the office,” Allen said.

The boys stopped in Thursday evening to pick up their new rides, complete with three years of bike tune-ups tossed in.