300 bikes donated to USO
November 30, 2009
By Alex McVeigh
Servicemembers from across the National Capital Region helped load 300 bicycles donated to USO-Metro Tuesday, which will be distributed to military Families in need this holiday season.
The bikes were donated by BAE Systems' "Bikes for Tykes"program, where employees donated the bikes and put them together. The program is entering its 15th year around the country, and in the five years the Reston branch has been participating, more than 2,100 bikes have been donated.
The parking lot in front of their Reston building was filled with two and three-wheeled vehicles, as everything from small tricycles to 24-inch mountain bikes were there. Seventy-five were sent to Fort Meade, 75 to Fort Belvoir, 100 to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, 25 for Naval Surface Warfare Dahlgren Division and 25 for Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center.
Erwin Bieber, vice president of Business Operations, spoke to the servicemembers and employees who came to a brief ceremony before the bikes were loaded.
"If you would have been here over the last few weeks [in our parking garage] while the bikes were being assembled, there were tremendous smiles on everyone's face, and they knew that the bikes sitting here would transition to smiles for Families," Bieber said.
Cheryl Laaker Hall, chief operating officer for USO-Metro, told a story about handing the bikes out last year, and she was moved to tears recalling the son of a Marine who had a medical condition requiring a feeding tube at all times, and the look of pure joy on his face as he rode his new bike around the community center at Quantico.
"To us, 300 bikes looks like 300 smiles on the faces of military children, it looks like another 600 smiles on the faces of the Families that receive the bikes," Hall said. ''It's tough economic times out there, so these bikes will go a long way towards helping some of our military Families have a better Christmas this year."
Command Sgt. Maj. Jefferson Varner III, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall command sergeant major, also spoke at the event, and he recalled loading all the bikes last year with only one Soldier to help him.
"The outpouring of generosity is overwhelming and very much appreciated by military Families," Varner said.
"The kids will see these bikes, and not realize all the work that went into it. The fact that you all took your personal time really means a lot."
After the remarks the dozen or so servicemembers got to work, loading bike after bike into moving trucks, until the parking lot was empty about an hour later.
As the trucks rolled away to various bases in the area, the servicemembers said they were glad to help out.
"It was a lot of bikes, but it was for a good cause," said Spc. Carlos Rios, president of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. ''We're just doing what we can to help the military Family population, and we'll always be willing to do that."