By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Members from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard participated in a USO-sponsored event to build 500 bikes for children during Fleet Week New York (FWNY), May 22.
The event, "Operation That's My Ride," focuses on building bicycles for children of service members and has been held every year since 2007. Bikes constructed today will be given to children of participating FWNY sea service members.
Jessica McAndrews, USO of Metropolitan New York, vice president of programs, services and operations, was in charge of the event.
"USO has 300 volunteers along with service members building bikes today," said McAndrews. "This is a program that is dear to my heart because it started from sending care packages to members overseas. We wanted to give something more family-related and not just for the individual member. So, we started putting together bikes for kids. Bike riding is something the whole family can do and enjoy together."
The bikes are for children ages 2 to 8 years old, and all come with a helmet and safety equipment. The bikes are built for both boys and girls.
"I know a lot of people on the ship," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Lena Ryan, assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17). "Building bikes and giving them to service members that have kids is important because it is something that they can enjoy while their parent is deployed. It doesn't necessarily take the place of them being gone, but it can help."
The USO is hosting numerous events for service members during FWNY and is one of the main sponsors for the weeklong celebration.
Margarita Giammanco, USO volunteer/team lead for Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), sees the value in this event and encouraged her company to fund and participate.
"I am the team lead for my company," said Giammanco. "I got them to give funds to Operation That's My Ride and my colleagues are here in support (who are) building bikes with me. This is an opportunity of a lifetime to support the military and the families for their many sacrifices. We are excited to give away these gifts to the children, and hopefully open a doorway to a lifetime of fun."
FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services, and an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. Fleet Week New York has been held nearly every year since 1984.