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Village Dirtbags Mark 11th Year Delivering Bikes to Vandenberg Air Force Base Youths

Donations fuel Lompoc Valley bicycle club's mission for children of deployed armed forces members

A child watches as a Village Dirtbag member adjusts a bicycle seat and handlebars during Saturday’s annual giveaway of bikes for children of deployed military forces. Click to view larger
A child watches as a Village Dirtbag member adjusts a bicycle seat and handlebars during Saturday’s annual giveaway of bikes for children of deployed military forces. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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With the sun shining bright, the Village Dirtbags fitted helmets, adjusted handlebars and tweaked seats on bicycles for young new owners Saturday morning in a Lompoc parking lot.

The bicycle club marked its 11th year of handing out top-quality bikes to children of deployed military members at Vandenberg Air Force Base, putting smiles on faces.

“This event is amazing,” Karen Schwab said, as her four thrilled children rode their new bikes across the parking lot to their waiting vehicle.

“I can’t believe they donate all these bikes and take the time to do this.”

With the help of donations from individuals and companies, the group raised money for the purchases made from Bicycles Unlimited. Each new bike came with a helmet — and a reminder to wear it.

“It means the world to them,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brittany Spoutz, family readiness noncommissioned officer. “It’s just so unbelievable how the community gets together and donates bicycles to children who they don’t even know, but it’s so helpful — especially with the children who have a parent deployed.

“It’s just something a little extra special around Christmas time,” she added.

Dad Jason Rockwood watched as his children were fitted for helmets before moving toward the bike adjustment area. He called the day joyful.

“They’re going to get a lot of use,” he said. “It’s very appreciated.”

This year’s Village Dirtbags mechanics were not hampered by heavy rain that dampened the 2015 event and four previous ones.

In the first year, the event gave away a dozen bikes and saw the number quickly grow to top 100 since 2006. In all, organizers say they have given away more than a 1,000 bikes and helmets.

The event provides a constant way to say thanks to military members serving the nation, according Roger McConnell from the Dirtbags.

“That’s really what the event’s been about for the last 11 years,” he said.

The club’s members are appreciative of donors — such as Imerys Filtration Minerals, known as Celite — who keep the program alive.

A 2-year-old YouTube video of a speech by retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to California Gold Star parents, those who lost sons and daughters serving in the military, was queued up at the event. In the speech, Kelly recalls the bravery of two Americans from different backgrounds seconds before they died.

“This really summarizes why we say thank you,” McConnell said. “The speech is just incredible. That’s why we say thank you. Just watch that video.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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