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Village Dirtbags Bicycle Giveaway Tradition Rolls On for Vandenberg Air Force Base Youth

Brightening a rainy day in Lompoc, 120 children of service members get new bikes and helmets for Christmas

While perched on her new bicycle, 3-year-old Nyah Ingram has her helmet adjusted by Randy Baumgardner, who was working with the Village Dirtbags on Saturday in Lompoc. The group of mountain-biking enthuasiasts delivered 120 bikes during the event. Click to view larger
While perched on her new bicycle, 3-year-old Nyah Ingram has her helmet adjusted by Randy Baumgardner, who was working with the Village Dirtbags on Saturday in Lompoc. The group of mountain-biking enthuasiasts delivered 120 bikes during the event. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Wet weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the Village Dirtbags adjusting bicycle seats and fitting helmets for dozens of youths receiving new rides Saturday in Lompoc.

With rain pouring down, the mountain biking enthusiasts worked without complaint underneath canopies in a parking lot off North H Street. It was the club’s​ 10th year of supplying bikes to children of military members at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

In all, 120 new bicycles and helmets were given to VAFB children whose parents are deployed overseas, on temporary duty assignments away from the Central Coast, or are struggling financially and unable to provide bicycles this Christmas.

“It’s an event we look forward to every year,” said Roger McConnell, who spearheads the bike drive and is a founding member of the Dirtbags.

“And it’s our way to say thank you to the folks at Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

The Village Dirtbags are local mountain bikers who tackle community service projects and fundraise throughout the year to purchase the bicycles.

In the past decade, they’ve given 1,000 VAFB youths top-quality bikes — all supported by the community, McConnell added.

“This is fantastic,” Col. J. Christopher Moss, commander of the 30th Space Wing, said as he attended the bike giveaway for the first time.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of the support this community gives the base, really all of our military men and women.”

Moss said the impacts will be lasting

“What’s really special about this to me is that the young kids today, they really will only understand this as the gift of a bike,” he said. “But 10 years from now, 15 years from now, when they’re older, they’re going to understand this really is a lot more than that.

“This is the community reaching out to support them as military families. And, that support is something they’ll never forget.”

The club effort is supported by Bicycles Unlimited with owner Steve Miller ordering the bikes specifically for each boy and girl.

Support also comes from Steve Yapp, a local PODS franchise operator who provides a storage unit for the bikes. The effort’s largest donor is Imerys, which operates the Lompoc diatomaceous earth plant.

In addition to raising funds for the bikes, club members spend the month leading up to the giveaway assembling the two-wheelers, and training wheels as needed.

The program began in 2006, when the organization gave away 12 bikes and helmets. Since then, the numbers have grown, topping 100 bicycles several times.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brittany Spoutz, from the Vandenberg Airman & Family Readiness Center, helps line up the eligible families. As she goes about her duties, she talks to her counterparts at other military installations that don’t have similar programs.

“This is a fantastic community,” she said. “I’ve never been stationed anywhere where we have this much support. And it’s support for not only the military, but the families.”

Chief Master Sgt. Rob Bedell, the 30th Space Wing’s top enlisted member, pointed out how valuable the bicycles are for children moving to the base as their parents get assignments at Vandenberg.

“For a kid, a lot of times, that bicycle is their acceptance,” he said, noting the high-quality bikes presented to the VAFB youths.

“A bike is freedom, independence,” Moss added.

Years later, people remember the Christmas they received bikes as children, Bedell said.

“This is a big deal and a heck of an investment that this group has done year after year to Vandenberg,” he said.

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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