For 20th year, Idaho Air Guard helps deserving kids get bikes
By Tech. Sgt. Sarah Pokorney, 124 Fighter Wing
/ Published June 01, 2012
BOISE, Idaho -- For the last 20 years, community members, donors, and Idaho Air National Guard volunteers have come together to put helmets and bikes into the hands of well-deserving children in the Boise community as part of Burgers for Bikes, Bikes for Kids.
Ten members of the Logistics Readiness Squadron were at Applebee's May 5 with tools and air hoses in hand to help 125 new bike owners get on the road safely. They adjusted brakes, seat height, put air in tires, tightened handle bars, and installed training wheels for the youngest cyclists.
With the help of generous donors and corporate sponsorships, money is raised to purchase the bikes and helmets. Children are preselected to receive a bike through the Boise Schools prior to the event. For some, this is their very first bike. Air Guard volunteers transported boxes of bikes to the assembly area and, once assembled by more volunteers, they delivered them on the morning of the event.
More than 5,200 deserving kids have been given a bike since the event's inception in 1992.
Parents and eager children start showing up at 9 a.m. Kids get a helmet and bike, which is then registered to its new owner. Once Air Guard volunteers help with mechanical adjustments, the Boise Police Department runs them through a bicycle safety course to teach hand signals, tight turning, stopping, and basic bike-handling skills before they leave.
While filling tire after tire of a seemingly endless line of eager bikers, Senior Master Sgt. Robert McDonald, Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent, explained how the Burgers for Bikes, Bikes for kids process works.
"I really enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids' faces," said Sergeant McDonald, who will retire this year after 32 years of service to Idaho and the nation. He has volunteered for every one of the 20 Burgers for Bikes, Bikes for Kids events.
After a firm final turn of the wrench by Staff Sgt. Chance Gannette, the seat was tight and a tiny pink bike with sparkly tassels was ready to go home with little wide-eyed, patient young cyclist.
"I enjoy seeing kids get something they will enjoy and use to get them outside and exercise," said Sergeant Gannette, who volunteered for the second time.
Layni Culley, mother of three, Dakota, 12, Dallas, 10, and Kaitlyn, 7, knew her kids would put their new bikes and helmets to good use because they live just beyond the cutoff for bus transportation to school and they will now be able to ride their bikes to school.
Dakota Culley explained what he liked most about his new black and grey mountain bike while casually flipping through the owner's manual:
"It pedals really nice and the right break works great. I don't use the left because it will flip you over the handle bars; I learned that once," the veteran rider said.
From the beginning, the Air National Guard was identified as a great volunteer partner based on their capabilities and strong reputation for community service. They gladly accepted the challenge and have been involved every year since.
"We know you'll will be on time with the right equipment, with the right attitude, ready to help and stay until the job is done," said Heather Price, event organizer.
"Thank you so much for the 20 years of help, it's been a great partnership," she said.