Penticton’s cycling community is rallying to help one of their own recover from serious injuries suffered in an accident on a Skaha Bluffs trail last weekend.
A recovery fund has been started for Aart Van Kooy, who flipped over the front of his bike after his handlebar clipped a tree branch while descending the Sam I Am trail, hitting the ground face-first.
Suffering multiple bone injuries to his face, including a shattered nose and broken jaw, Van Kooy was initially taken to Penticton Hospital, then transferred to Kelowna General Hospital. As of Wednesday he was under a medically-induced coma, awaiting the first of what will likely be many surgeries.
Tara Grace Scott, manager of The Bike Barn cycle shop in Penticton where Van Kooy works, said her goal is to help reduce the financial hardship facing Van Kooy, and his wife Kerry, as they deal with the post-accident recovery process.
“He is going to undergo a lot of facial reconstruction surgery, so the last thing I want them to worry about right now is the financial stuff,” said Scott.
Scott called it an amazing feat of perseverance that Van Kooy was able to make his way down to the bottom of the trail, both by walking and coasting on another bike, to where he could be transported by ambulance to hospital.
She said cycling has been a big part of Van Kooy’s life since he was a child, and had success in most cycling disciplines racing from BMX to downhill and cross-country.
“Aart has touched the lives of so many people in the cycling community, not only here but across British Columbia and truly worldwide,” she said. “He is a wizard-like bicycle mechanic, mentor, coach and trainer. Aart is a guy who always has a smile on his face, who is willing to go that extra mile to help you out.
“When a customer arrives just before closing with a bike problem that needs fixing, Aart is always the guy who steps up to help them out.”
Scott, who along with her partner was riding with the Van Kooys, says the foursome were in the midst of a fun Thanksgiving casual weekend ride when the accident occurred.
“We were not killing it by any stretch, and my partner was right behind him at the time. When he fell over, he asked him initially if he was all OK, but one look at his face, you could tell things were not right.”
Scott said the shop has already received calls from people outside the Okanagan who have heard about the accident and asking to help in some way.
So she organized a GoFundMe campaign for out-of-towners to make a financial contribution, but she is hoping local residents will stop by The Bike Barn or contact her to make a donation to a fundraising campaign started by the store.
“I was a bit hesitant with GoFundMe because there are costs associated with that whereas every cent donated directly to us can go the family. But it was more accessible to create the online page so people living elsewhere who wanted to help the the fundraising effort had a way to do that,” she said.
Donations can be made online to https://www.gofundme.com/aart-van-kooy-recovery-fund or directly to The Bike Barn, located at 300 Westminster Ave. W. in Penticton, by calling 250-492-4140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.