Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Some people celebrate their birthdays with cake and ice cream. Some people have parties. Still others simply enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Melissa Frawley, however, will celebrate her 41st birthday Aug. 25 on the road from Williamsville to Wilson, bicycling 30 miles to raise money for members of a Wilson family who recently endured tragedy.
Frawley, a Tonawanda native, originally planned to ride from Buffalo to Batavia (where she first started bicycling as a college student). She had been seeking a charity to support, but hadn’t made a decision.
“I just couldn’t come up with anything — and then the Johnson family tragedy happened,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s my cause.’
“It just made sense to do it for the family, to help. I know people just want to be able to do something. This is a way I can contribute.”
The Chestnut Road home of the Johnson family of Wilson was destroyed July 24 in an explosion that has been blamed on a leak from a propane tank. Sarah Johnson, 14, was killed and her parents, Judith and Jody, and siblings, Nathan and Katie, were injured. Two other siblings, Hannah, 16, and Sam, 10, were staying at overnight at friends’ houses.
Frawley’s brother and sister-in-law live in Wilson, so close they felt the blast. Their home on Washington Street is where the ride will wind up, 30 miles from its beginning at the corner of Transit and Roll roads in Williamsville. The route will include a stop on Chestnut Road in Wilson, where riders will observe a moment of silence and release yellow balloons in memory of Sarah Johnson.
Frawley’s personal goal is to collect at least 30 pledges at $30 each, with a total goal of raising $900 for the family. In addition to pledges, she is also seeking people to ride with her on her birthday trek.
At the moment, two additional riders have joined: Frawley’s best friend from college, Carol McNees, who now lives in Brockport, and JB Aaron of Nashville, whose mother received care from Judith Johnson, a hospice nurse.
“He called right away and said, ‘I want to ride with you,’ “ Frawley said.
Aaron, whose family lives in the Town of Niagara, is also a musician who will be performing at a benefit held Sept. 15 for the Johnsons at Porter on the Lake.
“We’re hoping to get the family back on their feet,” he said. “Words can’t even describe something like this. I’m putting everything I can out there to help them.
“For a community like this ... it’s just amazing.”
The ride will start about 8 a.m. It will not be a hurried affair, Frawley said.
“It’s not about speed,” she said. “It’s just riding for the cause. We’re not in any hurry; it’s a leisurely ride.”
There is a $20 registration fee, which covers the cost of a T-shirt that riders will be asked to wear for the ride. The shirts have been produced by the First Baptist Church in Wilson, where they are being sold to support the Johnson family. The deadline for registration is Friday.
Each participating rider is asked to collect pledges, all of which will go to the Johnson Family Fund (as will the registration fee).