Animated laughter mixed with the clanking of tools and the humming of compressors throughout the workshop as “Santa’s helpers” busied themselves assembling more than 50 bicycles the morning of Nov. 20. The scene outside this workshop wasn’t the ice and snow of the North Pole, but rather the balmy trade winds and warm temperatures of Honolulu. Inside this workshop were busy “elves,” Marine and Sailor volunteers along with employees and family members of defense contractor BAE Systems.
They gathered at the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots Hawaii warehouse in Iwilei to assemble bicycles purchased by BAE Systems employees to donate to the Toys for Tots Hawaii program. This is the fifth year of the “Bikes for Tykes” program, and during that time, they’ve donated nearly 500 bikes to help the Marines make the holidays brighter for Hawaii’s less-fortunate children.
“The Bikes for Tykes program is an important one for Toys for Tots Hawaii,” said Capt. Luke Gaffney, the Inspector-Instructor for 4th Force Reconnaissance Company & Anti-Terrorism Battalion, and Toys for Tots Hawaii Officer-in-Charge. “It’s one of our first major events of the season and it always sets a good tone for the year’s collection drive. Each of these bikes represents a child who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.”
Charlie Drake is a procurement manager with BAE Systems, and he’s been involved with Bikes for Tykes for several years.
“BAE wants to be a part of the community here in Hawaii,” he said. “A few years back, we identified Toys for Tots as a program we wanted to support, so we came up with this program and the employees here really stepped up to make it a success.”
BAE Systems employees purchased the bikes directly from Huffy Corporation unassembled and had them shipped to Hawaii. Then the employees and family members volunteered their time to assemble the bikes to present to the Marines. More than 50 volunteers showed up and quickly assembled the bikes, which range in size to accommodate riders from toddlers to teenagers.
Last year, Toys for Tots Hawaii collected approximately 45,000 toys for Hawaii’s less fortunate keiki (children). This year’s goal is 45,000 toys – given the tough economic climate, it is anticipated that the need will again be great. Since 1996, Toys for Tots Hawaii has collected more than 680,000 toys and nearly $400,000 to purchase toys for distribution to nearly 425,000 of Hawaii’s children.
The Salvation Army handles all the requests for donations from nearly 100 registered local charities, which in turn provide them to less fortunate families. They also provide personnel to man the Toys for Tots Hawaii warehouse where the Marines bring the collected donations, processing and sorting every donated toy to ensure the gifts get to the correct age groups and gender of children.
For more information on the Toys for Tots program, call 257-7147.