GROTON, Conn. – United Service Organization (USO) volunteers coordinated with Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) to hand out bikes to military children in a yearly giveaway for the holidays, Dec. 4.
Cars lined up for the length of Grayling Avenue onboard SUBASE New London as families waited eagerly to receive the new bicycles. When they reached the front of the line, a volunteer would come out and check the driver’s name against a list and ask what kind of bike they were getting. More volunteers would then bring the bikes out to load into the cars.
“This is Operation That’s My Ride,” said Joshua Thomas, USO director of operations and programs for Metro New York. “Thanks to our partners at Pfizer, we were able to get over 100 bikes here of various sizes. They sold out in one day, so we’re very excited to get these to the families for the holidays. It’s an event we do every year, but we’re excited to bring it directly to the installation this year.”
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the USO had to go without some of the usual features of the bicycle giveaway, such as food and beverages, but that did not put a damper on the mood of the families receiving the bikes.
“We have eight children and four of our younger children are going to be the lucky recipients of the bikes,” said Rebecca Matter. “They have been looking forward to having new bikes for a while now. We have one girl’s, 20 inch, and a 20 inch boy bike, and two 18 inch boys’ bikes.”
“My name is Patrick!” exclaimed Rebecca’s young son with a smile in his car seat as his bike was loaded into the back of the van. “Thank you!”
In 2019, the USO came to visit SUBASE New London for the giveaway, but this year, the USO is putting down roots and staying. A new facility in Dealey Center next to the library is scheduled to house a full-fledged USO.
“We have our new center opening, hopefully soon,” said Thomas. “We’re excited to be here for everyone in the next couple months. We’re still in the process of getting everything together. It’s going to have video games, snacks, coffee, all the usual USO amenities you’re used to, we’ll have it right here for you on the installation.”
Operation That’s My Ride presents military children ages 2 to 8 with brand new bikes, helmets and instruction manuals for safe riding. The program brings families together with a classic Christmas present and keeps spirits high among children even amid the difficulties military families face. Those interested in Operation That’s My Ride and other similar projects can contact SUBASE New London MWR by calling 860-694-2298 or by calling the USO at 888-484-3876.