A flat bike tire in front of a stranger’s house led to a donation to help the family of a single mom fighting a serious autoimmune disease.

Naomi Pruitt of Columbus, the bike rider with the flat tire, didn’t know when she asked a homeowner for help last month that she was being connected to a family that would take her story, which includes three school-age kids she’s raising on her own, to their own hearts.

Pruitt is mom to 13-year-old Isaac Green, 12-year-old Josiah Green and 8-year-old Jesse Pruitt, all of them active kids who love bike riding.

After contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite last year, Naomi Pruitt said she was on her way to the grocery store last month on her own bike, which she took because driving a car can be difficult with the symptoms of her disease. She has been on disability from her job as an athletic trainer at a local fitness club, trying to improve enough to return to work.

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During the ride to the store, her bike tire went flat just as the homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous, pulled into his driveway — and asked if he could help.

As she wheeled the bike up to the man’s garage, she noticed a Trek bike hanging up inside. As she explained her story, she told the man she hoped to buy her son Josiah a used bicycle for his birthday on Oct. 14. She asked if the bike in the garage was for sale.

He explained the bike belonged to his son, Bartholomew County Jail corrections officer and special deputy Bryan Love, and he checked with him and told her she could purchase it for $50.

A few days later, Naomi Pruitt left a note on the back of a store receipt giving her name and phone number and asking if Bryan Love would consider holding the bike for another month until she could get the money together to pay for it.

“I haven’t been cleared to return to work as I have developed scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder with no cure,” she wrote in the note. “I do want to purchase the bike very much for my son’s birthday. Would you possibly consider holding it for another month. I am very sorry to ask this,” the note said.

Working with the west-side Walmart, his son, the Columbus Police Department and the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, the benefactor saw to it that all three boys would receive bicycles.

Lt. Matt Harris of the Columbus Police Department was giving the family a tour of the police department during fall break from school as the bikes were brought to the station for a surprise Wednesday morning.

Under tarps in the back of a pickup truck, a bicycle was brought down and handed to each of the boys, who immediately tore off the tags and began riding them around the police department parking lot.

“This is just amazing because his birthday is coming up,” Naomi Pruitt said as Josiah received his bike. “We’ve just lost so much because of this disease, and I wanted him to have a bike.”

While Jesse’s father helps out with the family, it has been a struggle to provide extras such as birthday presents for the boys, their mother said.

“This is so awesome,” she said, wiping away tears while watching the three kids ride their bikes “I have wanted to be able to ride bikes together as a family for so long. This is answering a prayer,” she said.

Before leaving, the anonymous benefactor gave Naomi Pruitt a bag containing bike locks for each bike and a bike pump to take care of any future flat tires.

And then he quietly passed a roll of cash into her hand, saying it should be used for bike helmets, which each child should pick out for himself.

“Isn’t it great when people amaze you with their greatness,” Naomi Pruitt said of the man, who first fixed a flat tire and then engineered a gift for all three boys and their mother.

“This truly gives me hope,” she said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.