Saved by My Truckee River Friends

by Natalie Healey, Sparks, NV

Saved by my Truckee River Friends

Along the Truckee River, there’s a two-and-a-half-mile stretch where close to 100 otherwise homeless people camp. I ride my bike past it every day on my way to work and on my way home. I spend a lot of time and my own money crocheting hats and passing them out there. I have only been able to make and distribute about 45 hats so far.

In doing so, I’ve come to know several of them. They are very kind and decent people. I’ve only had one person propose a “hippy marriage” after receiving my hat. It wasn’t creepy or inappropriate, just his way of saying thank you.

Today, something happened that I never saw coming. I got off my bike, took my bag of hats out of the basket, and walked down the bank a bit. I saw a new tent pitched there and wanted to see if anyone there maybe wanted a hat. While I was there, someone stole my bike.

YES! Someone abducted Penelope Pedals! I saw it happen, but was too far down the bank to run and catch them in time, and off they went. I scrambled upwards as fast as I could and raced after them. They didn’t get very far, though; maybe a football field’s length away. About 15 of my homeless friends saw what was happening and stopped the man in his tracks. They stood arm in arm across the path so he couldn’t get past them, and saved my Penelope! Where is a Go-Pro when you need it?

Those homeless people did what most people would not have done. They put themselves in harm’s way because they saw “Hat Lady’s” bicycle being stolen. They stopped a criminal and they saved my day. I wish I had 15 more arms so I could have hugged all of them at the same time, and 15 more arms so I’d have 30 hands to make more hats faster. What a spectacular day!

Originally published as HeroicStories #3349 on Feb 29, 2016
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

10 thoughts on “Saved by My Truckee River Friends”

  1. Natalie, what an awesome story!!! I am always knitting hats because they are quick easy and fun to do. My really fluffy soft ones go to the cancer center in my Dad’s name. After that I just don’t know what to do with my other ones. If you would want them, maybe we can work through Leo to get e-mail addresses passed back and forth. Now they are knit, not crochet. I am super bad at crochet. Let me know if you are interested.

  2. What a lovely story – we are all in this together and it means we need to help one another when we can. Natalie you are helping – and it is evident your friends want to help you. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Just because somebody is down on their luck and homeless does not make them a bad person. Some of the homeless people in our area are happy to do some minor yard work in exchange for money, food, clothing, whatever and my wife and I enjoy helping them out.

  4. I love this story! There’s a big church in downtown Dallas, First Presbyterian, that has an outreach mission to the homeless, providing food, clothing, shelter, jobs, apartments, etc., to people living on the streets of Dallas.

    That church never has to worry about anybody breaking in or vandalizing. The homeless consider it their church and they watch over it. They are welcome to attend services, where they rub shoulders and share meals with some of the richest people in Dallas.

  5. Interesting date: Originally published as HeroicStories #3349 on Feb 29, 2026.
    Most homeless people are in that position for a number of reasons but usually
    a community is protective of each other and of those people who come to help.
    I worked for more than four years at a facility that provided services to that type
    of community. We rarely had problems and nothing from equipment or supplies
    were ever stolen.

    • need a re-fix, Leo. There was no Feb. 29 in 2006; replies to the initial post are dated Feb. 29, 2016.

      Do yourself a favor and delete this comment once you have the final correction to the “first posted” date. Thanks!


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