A group of Twickenham residents raised nearly £1,000 in less than four hours last Sunday evening to replace a junior doctor’s stolen bike.
Paul Chapman, 31, was watching TV at home with his girlfriend Michelle Keaveney when his bike was stolen from outside their flat near Twickenham Green, at around 1.50pm last Sunday afternoon.
Twickenham residents became aware of the incident through a post Keaveney, 35, wrote in the Twickenham Facebook group appealing for witnesses to the theft.
In the post she wrote: “My boyfriend Paul is an NHS doctor at West Middlesex Hospital and he has not taken a single day of holiday since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I truly wish it was my bike that got taken instead because Paul is such a great guy under so much pressure at the moment.”
She also said that the bike had been a Christmas present from his mother to help with his commute.
Her post inspired secondary school teacher Tiffany Robinson, 48, to suggest they start a GoFundMe campaign to replace the bike, despite never having met either the doctor or his girlfriend.
She said: “I saw Michelle’s post and I just thought ‘I’m just hugely cross about this’.
“He’s a doctor trying to do his best at the worst time, and I know what it’s like trying to teach through this time, so God knows what it’s like working on the front line.”
While she admitted that her initial suggestion to start a GoFundMe was a ‘throwaway comment’, the idea received great support from the Facebook group, one member even promising to leave an £100 donation.
After discussing it with Keaveney via Facebook Messenger, she created the GoFundMe page and posted it into the group.
Within hours, the post was shared more than 800 times, and donations reached more than £900, nearly three times the value of the stolen bike.
When Keaveney saw how successful the fundraiser was, she was shocked.
She said “I was honestly laughing out loud I just couldn’t believe it!”
The campaign was so popular that, according to Ms. Robinson, people tried to donate to the cause after she and Keaveney closed donations.
The two women met, socially distanced, for the first time on Twickenham Green the next day in order to discuss next steps.
Despite his gratitude to Robinson, Chapman recognised that this was truly a community effort. He thanked everyone who contributed to the fundraiser, as well as those who sent information about the theft, and general well-wishes to the couple.
He was particularly touched as the couple had only moved to Twickenham in October and had not yet established strong connections in the community, due to lockdown and his long hours at the hospital.
He said: “To feel that support from everyone in the community in Twickenham… it is just such an amazing boost.”
This ‘boost’ came at a much-needed time for Chapman, as West Middlesex Hospital battles with staff shortages, increasing patient numbers, low morale and other difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the blessing of those who donated, Chapman and Keaveney will use the surplus money from the campaign to buy a coffee machine, along with an assortment of other goodies, to be gifted to the staff that work on his ward.
Twickenham Police confirmed that enquiries are still ongoing concerning the bike theft.
They urge anyone with any information about this incident to call them on 101 or report online at www.met.police.uk quoting reference 07000282/21.