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Bike-a-thon to support troops overseas

July 01, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

BIG POOL

Ride a bike, help a soldier.

And enjoy some exceptional Western Maryland scenery in the process.

A group of local entrepreneurs is sponsoring a bike-a-thon July 14 to benefit Operation Shoebox, a nonprofit organization that provides toiletries and other supplies to U.S. troops overseas. The route will take participants along the Western Maryland Rail Trail from Big Pool to Little Pool - and back.

The bike-a-thon begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 1 p.m., with closing and clean-up from 1 to 2 p.m., according to organizers Randy and Arin Knotts of Clear Spring.

Arin Knotts said she and her husband got the idea to sponsor an event for Operation Shoebox because of a close friend who recently served in Iraq.

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"His wife told us all the things he didn't have. We were astonished," she said.

They and their D.C. International business team associates hope the bike-a-thon will become an annual event. D.C. International promotes the health and beauty products of Quixtar Inc. Knotts said their business team had done other service projects, mainly during the Christmas holidays, and wanted to take on a summer project.

Operation Shoebox sends shoe boxes or bags filled with toiletries and other needed items to the troops. Bike-a-thon participants can donate to Operation Shoebox in three ways:

n They can bring a 1 gal. ziplock bag filled with items from Operation Shoebox's list.

n They can donate items in bulk - such as sports drinks, tea, juices, etc., which will be sent to Operation Shoebox to match with other donated items.

n They can donate money to help defray the costs of shipping and to purchase additional items.

"Every penny goes to Operation Shoebox," Knotts said.

She anticipates "a minimum of 1,000" bicyclists will participate. Their goal for this outing is to collect 5,000 boxes or bags for the troops. Each bag will contain a postcard expressing appreciation to the troops, she said.

Corporate sponsors have been lining up already, she said, and will be recognized at the event. Those donating $200 or more will get tax deduction letters.

"Just by asking, it's amazing how giving people are," Knotts said. "People are very sympathetic, yet passionate" about the troops.

Her two young daughters, ages 4 and 7, will be making the trek along with their parents. "It's a whole family event," she said.

Next year, she said, organizers hope to arrange 10 to 15 simultaneous bike-a-thons across the country.

Riders should go to the Western Maryland Rail Trail parking lot at Big Pool on the morning of the bike-a-thon. To get there, take Interstate 70 to Big Pool, then travel east on Md. 56 to the parking lot.

For more information on the event, you may e-mail randyarin@msn.com or call 240-217-4683. For information on Operation Shoebox, you may go to the organization's Web site at www.operationshoebox.com.

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