Honolulu, HI --
To a child, a shiny new bicycle is more than just a way to get around. It’s a ticket to adventure, a symbol of growing independence and a great way to expand their world.
Thanks to the generosity of the employees of BAE Systems here, and through the Marine Reserve’s annual Toys for Tots charity drive, some needy Hawaii children will receive that precious gift this holiday season.
BAE Systems employees donated the money to buy 100 bikes of different styles and sizes, and some 50 employees and family members gave up their Saturday morning Nov 17 to assemble those bikes. It took them less than two hours to finish the assembly and get the shiny new bikes loaded into the Marines’ truck.
“I think it will really brighten up their Christmas, and you know everyone likes a bike when you’re at that certain age,” said Bob Putes, Information Technology Director for BAE Systems in Hawaii.
This is the second year BAE has conducted their “Bikes for Tykes” drive, and their fourth year as lead corporate sponsor of Toys for Tots in Hawaii. Buying and assembling new bikes is important to the employees; it’s also a lot of fun.
“The large majority of us here today are technicians: nuclear inspectors, ship builders, electronics technicians. So a chance to get down here and do some good, old-fashioned bike building is a real joy,” said Steve Leavitt, of BAE’s Communications Division.
Receiving so many bicycles early in the season provides a welcome kick-start to the annual Toys for Tots collection drive.
“Having the community come together and not only donate these bikes, but to also spend time putting them together really portrays what our program is about. Receiving such a large donation this early in the campaign is a good sign that we will be able to exceed last years numbers and meet our goals for this holiday season,” said Staff Sgt. Jens Orsen, 4th Force Reconnaissance Company, Hawaii Toys for Tots Coordinator.
But it wasn’t just the employees turning wrenches and pumping up tires. Many brought their spouses and kids to help as well.
“This is a lot of fun for our employees, and it brings back a lot of memories. Some of the kids of the employees come out and help, and they really get into it,” said Putes.
Toys for Tots started 60 years ago with a single hand-made Raggedy Ann doll, crafted by the wife of Marine Reserve Major Bill Hendricks. In the 59 years since, Toys for Tots has collected more than 370 million toys and distributed them to more than 173 million needy children nationwide.
Toys for Tots in Hawaii collected approximately 50,000 toys in 2006, and are hoping to surpass 60,000 toys this year. Distribution of the Toys is coordinated through the Salvation Army here, according to Orsen.
Gifts of new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at Windward Federal Credit Union locations; Navy Federal Credit Union in Kapolei and Pearl Harbor; Hardware Hawaii in Kailua, Kaneohe and Honolulu; Regal Cinemas in Dole Cannery, Windward Mall and Pearl City; both Hawaii Pacific University campuses; and Napa Auto Parts stores in Kailua, Pearl City, Waipahu, Honolulu, Kalihi and at Honolulu Airport.
For more information, you can call the Hawaii Toys for Tots Coordinator at 257-2531, ext. 243.