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BIKE GIVEAWAY A HIT AT VAFB : Many of the kids who got new wheels have parents deployed in Iraq or ... - page 1 / 3

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BIKE GIVEAWAY A HIT AT VAFB : Many of the kids who got new wheels have parents deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan

NORA K. WALLACE, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER December 20, 2009 6:57 AM

With jaws dropping in surprise and smiles wide in delight, more than 100 children from Vandenberg Air Force Base and Lompoc received extra-special Christmas presents on Saturday — brand new bicycles and helmets.

The children — including many with a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or with parents suffering financial hardship — walked up to the rows of brand new bikes lined up in front of Bicycles Unlimited and rode away beaming.

For the fourth year, the bikes — red, black, blue and pink — were purchased with funds raised by the Village Dirtbags mountain bike team and donated to children ranging in age from 1 to 16.

An added element this year was the presentation of three custom bikes for disabled veterans, including a recent double amputee who served in Iraq and a Vietnam veteran and last year had his left leg amputated after suffering with an old war injury.

Bicycles Unlimited in Lompoc was the scene of the 4th annual bike giveaway for kids from Vandenberg AFB who have a parent deployed. Five members of the Wallace family received bicycles at the giveaway. Pictured from left are Madison, Katelynn, Tabitha and Haley Wallace. Their brother, Cody Wallace is in the background getting his bike. LAURA DICKINSON/NEWS-PRESS PHOTO

The Village Dirtbags riding group is a club of about 25 avid weekly cyclists who are by day local business people, teachers, firefighters, physicians and others. The team works closely with Vandenberg's Airman and Family Readiness program to determine which children will be given a bicycle. This year, some non-military families from the Lompoc area also received a bike, as well as four bikes for families living at the Good Samaritan shelter.

Roger McConnell, a financial adviser, is a Village Dirtbag founding member and major promoter of the charitable effort.

Recently, he heard someone speaking about military people in Afghanistan, and how they are "guarding the perimeter of our freedom."

Chase Faulenberry, 7, laughs as he chats with Santa Claus after getting his new bicycle.

"That really summarizes it," Mr. McConnell said. "It's our way of saying thank you, not only to the folks at Vandenberg, but to let everyone else know we really do want to thank those who are guarding the perimeter of our freedom."

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