Bicycle helmet giveaway for Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Scarlett Vasquez takes her new bike for a spin at the Village Dirtbags' annual giveaway on Saturday for the children of deployed military members from Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

From bikes to a barbecue, local communities served up Christmas cheer on Saturday to Vandenberg Space Force Base military members and their families.

In the Lompoc Valley, dozens of Vandenberg youths received new top-quality bicycles and helmets as the Village Dirtbags brought back their giveaway after a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19.

In Guadalupe, about 20 Guardians and Airmen got lunch and more, courtesy of a communitywide effort to show support to the small city’s military neighbors. 

For the Village Dirtbags, a group of adults enthusiastic about riding mountain bikes, it marked the 15th giveaway to children of deployed military members and other families with special circumstances. 

This year’s effort delivered about 100 bikes of all types to youths of all ages.

“It felt good. We’ve had two years because of COVID we couldn’t do it, so it was really fun just to get into the swing of things,” said Roger McConnell, a member of the Dirtbags. 

Family, friends and strangers provided donations to purchase the bikes and helmets. 

“They were very generous this year,” McConnell said. 

Despite pausing the bike giveaway in 2020 and 2021, the Dirtbags still showed support to Vandenberg personnel, delivering care packages to deployed military members 

Bicycle helmet giveaway for Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Charles Vasquez takes a contemplative break on his new bicycle at the Village Dirtbags’ bike giveaway on Saturday. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

“We had hundreds of care packages that went all over the world,” McConnell said. “In 2021, we did a special spring barbecue for all the families who had a deployed spouse.”

The Village Dirtbags worked with the Military & Family Readiness Center’s Master Sgt. Cole Connors to pinpoint youths to receive bicycles and helmets. 

“We always match up a bike with the rider,” McConnell said, adding that it means they also supply a BMX bike or a cruiser, if requested.

Members of the Dirtbags assembled the bicycles at their homes ahead of the giveaway day. On Saturday in the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church parking lot, new owners were presented their bikes as Dirtbags adjusted handles and seats to each rider. 

With the prior bike shop supplier retired, the Dirtbags this year paired up with Main Street Cycles in Santa Maria, McConnell said. 

“They’re not the big-box bikes where they’re going to break down in a year or so. They’re really high-quality bicycles,” McConnell said. “It’s not random at all.”

As two new bike owners pedaled through the parking lot, their mother expressed appreciation for the gifts.

“It’s so wonderful for the community to come together to help children,” one mom said. “The team that puts it together, they do a lot of hard work. We appreciate it, definitely.”

In at least one case, a prior recipient’s bike has been passed along to other youths at Vandenberg multiple times when an owner outgrew it, according to a base representative. 

The giveaway brings happiness and joy for families dealing with a parent deployed to another location around the world for the holidays, Connors said. 

Bicycle helmet giveaway for Vandenberg Space Force Base youths.
Bicycle helmets sit in a line on a table awaiting new owners at the Village Dirtbags’ annual giveway for children of deployed military members at Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

“The families appreciate that others, even off-base, are thinking about them,” Connors said. “It’s just heartwarming and motivating to know that they’re not alone.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Guadalupe Veterans Memorial Building, about 20 military members received the VIP treatment as the tiny community did its part to show support, serving up a barbecue lunch and some prizes to the visitors. 

“We wanted to show a little hospitality of Guadalupe,” Public Safety Director Michael Cash said. “This is our way of saying thank you for your service. Thank you for being a great neighbor.”

 Vandenberg’s Lt. Col. Josh Killian, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, said that as military members move to new assignments, some communities nearby stand out for the support shown to them and their families. 

“I’ve been back to Vandenberg several times throughout my career, and I can tell you the way this community surrounds Vandenberg and embraces both the Airmen and now the Guardians at our installation is just amazing,” he added.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at