Sunday, June 07, 2009

Teen's training for transplant games 'jeopardized'
after bike stolen

By MATTHEW VAN DONGEN The Standard St. Catharines, Ontario

It's his training partner, his gold-medal machine and his therapy on wheels.

Now, Mike Mazzuocco's racing bike is gone.

The 18-year-old St. Catharines teen underwent a double lung transplant in 2007 and recovered in time to win gold at the Canadian Transplant Games last summer.

The Grade 12 student at West Park Secondary School has been training hard for the World Transplant Games this summer in Australia -- until someone stole his silver-black training bike last week.

"We can't afford to replace it, so I would definitely like it back," said Mazzuocco, whose bike was stolen from behind the Fourth Avenue Tim Hortons where he works.

The Norco bicycle cost about $400, but it's worth considerably more to the cycling teen.

Mazzuocco was riding the bike when he won the five-kilometer timed trial at the Canadian Transplant Games in Windsor. That's just about eight months after his double lung transplant, a successful blow in his battle against cystic fibrosis.

Sentimental value aside, Mazzuocco uses the bike to exercise his lungs and train for his next challenge: a 20-kilometre race at the World Transplant Games.

"I'm usually out on it four times a week," he said. "It (the theft) has slowed down my training, for sure."

Mazzuocco used to ride the bike to work, too.

A co-worker and a supervisor saw the theft in progress, but arrived too late to stop the male from riding away last Wednesday night.

The theft has infuriated Mazzuocco's mother, Jeannie.

"This bike means a lot to Mike," she said. "The longer this goes unresolved, the more his training is jeopardized.... The whole scenario can have no happy ending unless that bike is recovered."

The family believes they've seen the culpr it hanging around the coffee shop in the past. They've filed a report with Niagara Regional Police, and Jeannie Mazzuocco added she hopes her son's loss serves as a warning to other city cyclists.

Const. Jacquie Forgeron said police are investigating, but haven't found the bike or the culprit yet.

She urged all bike owners to record the registration number and take photos of new bicycles. To self-register your bike with police, visit this site.

Mazzuocco isn't completely without wheels.

He has a new competition bike he hopes to use for the big race in Australia. But he's hoping to avoid using it for the daily training grind -- "and there's no way I'll be leaving that at work," he added.

The family doesn't plan to replace the training bike. They're already under the gun to fundraise $10,000 to get the aspiring athlete to Australia's Gold Coast for the world games.

On the upside, fundraising is going well, Mazzuocco said. His former and current schools, Grapeview and West Park, have helped a lot, he said, along with many individuals and community groups. So far, he's raised more than $6,800.

Now, Mazzuocco is hoping police or a watchful member of the public can help him reclaim his bike.

The bicycle is silver and black with wide, treadless tires. Identifying features include front shocks and a metal water bottle holder near the bottom of the frame.

To learn more about Mike Mazzuocco's campaign or donate, visit:

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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