By Senior Airman Alicia Goldberger
Alaska National Guard
(12/7/09) -- More than 20 disadvantaged children in Afghanistan will get new bikes this month thanks to a group of Anchorage volunteers and an assist from the Alaska Air National Guard. The bicycles, together with parts and tools, were donated by the Anchorage Community YMCA, The Bicycle Shop, Paramount Cycles, Chain Reactions and REI, Inc. They were then refurbished by Off the Chain, a non-profit, all-volunteer bicycle collective in Anchorage.
A group of Off the Chain volunteers came up with the idea of giving bicycles to underprivileged Afghan children. The big obstacle was getting them there.
So, organizers approached Lt. Col. David Glick, a pilot with the Alaska Air National Guard's 144th Airlift Squadron. The squadron routinely flies personnel, equipment and supplies into the remote, war-torn country.
Chris Himes, a long-term Off the Chain volunteer, said "I can't imagine any other way it could have happened. It's a perfect confluence of interests and abilities ... the Air Guard being on the way anyway and being able to distribute the bikes, which we would never be able to do."
On Dec. 5, a group of Air Guard members arrived at Off the Chain with a flatbed truck to pick up the bikes. On Dec. 8, Guard members at Kulis Air National Guard Base, deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, will load them onto a C-130 tactical airlift plane for the three-day flight. Once there, they will be handed over to a local U.S. military unit at Bagram Airfield for distribution to Afghan children.
"With our Guardsmen rotating in and out of Afghanistan throughout the holiday season, it was the perfect opportunity to support a worthy cause and provide a little cheer for Afghan youth," said Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.