America Supports You: Arizona Bikers Roll Out for Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 28, 2006 Nearly 1,500 Arizona bikers rolled their Harleys through Glendale, Ariz., recently to honor the nation's servicemembers and back a local troop support organization, an event organizer said.
The second Hearts to Heroes Ride, sponsored by Cyclerides.com, benefited Packages From Home, a nonprofit group that ships packages to troops deployed overseas, said Dave Whitten, director of marketing and media relations for Packages From Home. Cyclerides.com is an information Web site for the Glendale-area motorcycle community, sponsored the event.
Packages From Home is a member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which highlights efforts by Americans to support servicemembers and their families.
Whitten said the riders each paid $10 to participate in the late March event.
"This cash donation will be used for postage to ship more care packages to our deployed men and women," Whitten said. "Each rider (also) is asked to bring a bag of items that is listed on the Packages From Home Web site."
This event, as well as donations from individuals and corporations, helps Packages From Home meet its goal of providing deployed servicemembers with food, personal care and recreation items, he said. Those are just the tangible support the troops receive though.
" (The bikers) showing up at the event (showed) our troops that American people care about them and the mission they have been asked to do," Whitten said.
Packages From Home began in March 2004 when Kathleen Lewis, the mother of a deployed soldier, learned her son lacked certain comforts of home, according to the Web site. She began sending him care packages and founded the organization when she learned her son was sharing his packages with others.
Lewis, along with about 15 other grassroots group members of America Supports You, met with President and Mrs. Bush in the White House last month. "Our troops our defending our freedom; they are defending our country from terrorism; they're the best of America," she said after the March 10 meeting.
To date, the organization has shipped more than 25,000 packages, Whitten said. "We average over 1,200 packages a month we ship to our troops," he added. With an all-volunteer staff that numbers about 300, Packages From Home operates solely on donations, Whitten said. He added that all monetary donations go toward shipping costs that run about $8,200 for every 1,000 packages shipped. This kind of support is crucial not only to Packages From Home, but to the troops it benefits as well.
"I think it means a lot to a (servicemember) to get a care package from someone other than family," Whitten said. "It lets them know that real Americans think about them while they're off in a foreign land away from everyone they know and love."
Barry Caraway, owner of Cyclerides.com, held the first Hearts to Heroes event in March 2005. This year's event included tributes to eight World War II veterans and to Vietnam veterans, Whitten said.