New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
‘Bike Guy’ wins support after cancer diagnosis
CLINTON — “The Bike Guy,” who has spent years fixing and giving away bikes to people who need them, is asking for help raising money for cancer research while also undergoing treatment for the blood cancer he recently learned he has.
Paul Egan, a retired engineer, is well-known throughout the area for his volunteer work in the community. During his time working with Families Helping Families, a nonprofit in Clinton, he has restored and given away 1,200 bicycles and done hundreds of free repairs.
But when Egan was diagnosed with blood cancer, he said he was surprised by the amount of community support he received. Now he is participating with his family and friends in Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center’s Closer to Free bike ride — which donates 100 percent of funds raised to cancer research and care at the facilities.
With the race scheduled to be held virtually Sept. 11, Egan and his wife, Liz Egan, have raised about $23,000 through their undraising pages and Paul’s team, The Bike Guys Boosters.
Paul Egan said he has been restoring bicycles since 2006. He said he was volunteering at the Valley Shore YMCA gardens, which donates the food it grows to St. Mark’s Food Pantry in New Britain.
“It started small, and then I connected Miner Vincent of Families Helping Families,” he said. “I had about 12 bikes or so that I was ready to give away.”
Paul Egan said Vincent was impressed with his side project, so he offered the nonprofit’s support.
“I learned an awful lot about it,” he said. “I’m working with tools. I’m in my garage. I’m listening to NPR radio. It’s like, ‘Wow.’ I’m meeting great people. It’s just been really cool.”
Until the pandemic, Egan said he was giving away 130 to 150 bikes a year. .
When COVID-19 quarantines and social distancing went into effect, Egan said, he decided to stop volunteering at the YMCA to put more effort into restorations.
“I gave 525 bikes away in 2020 alone,” he said. “I’ve done 200 bikes this year, but I’ve kind of scaled back quite a bit because of my diagnosis.”
Egan started chemotherapy in June, and is now finishing up his third round. He is also getting blood transfusions.
“I cannot believe how much blood they poured into me,” said Egan, who was formerly a blood donor. “I gave 64 units over the years.”
“When I got diagnosed with cancer, my wife Liz, she wanted to do something,” he said. “So, she signed up for the ride. Then, she created a team in my name.”