By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | January 2017
Fort Worth – Achilles Rhoads bee-lined for the bike he had his eyes on all morning: an aluminum blue sport bike equipped with a large storm trooper and light saber.
Achilles, a first year student at The Jane Justin School at the Child Study Center in Fort Worth, was among nine other children from the Center as well as eight other local organizations that participated in Lockheed Martin’s annual Holiday Charities Parade on Thursday, Dec. 15. Lockheed Martin Aeronautic employees donated over $200,000 and nearly 300 bicycles to local Fort Worth organizations.
“I think it’s a good incentive for him,” said Achilles’ mother, Lorraine Rhoads. “He can’t ride a bike yet, so I think a new bike like this will definitely make him want to do it.”
“Plus, he loves Star Wars,” said his father, Cameron Rhoads.
The event kicked off with a Marine Corps Color Guard and the Brewer High School drumline leading a parade of colorfully decorated bicycles and employees through Lockheed Martin’s factory hallways toward a reception and check presentation. This year, the company doubled the number of gifts collected.
“The event has been going for about 21 years,” said Susan Wright of the Lockheed Martin A.E.R.O. Club (Aeronautic Employees Reaching Out). “It all started with employees wanting to give back to the local community, so we started partnering with local agencies like Toys for Tots, Cowboy Santa, and the Star-Telegram Good Fellow Fund.”
Tom Simmons, Vice President and General Manager for Aeronautics Operations, hosted the presentation, which awarded donations to local organizations including the Fort Worth-Star Telegram Good Fellow Fund, Cowboy Santas, Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army, Tarrant Area Food Bank, Safe Haven of Tarrant County, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Catholic Charities, and the Child Study Center.
“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” Simmons said. “What we’re doing today is celebrating that attitude here, specifically in Fort Worth. We’re thankful to our employees that hold that philosophy and truly embrace the idea of giving.”
After receiving their check and having a picture taken with Santa, children from the Child Study Center were allowed to choose a bike to take home. The event took a few months of preparation, including a bicycle decoration contest among the Lockheed Martin employees.
“We encouraged employees to get together and decorate a bike, and then we had a contest,” Wright said. “Over 750 employees walked by to vote. They took a piece of candy and put it in the bag of the bike they thought was the best decorated.”
Employees had 2 weeks to decorate each bicycle before voting took place and some partnered into small teams to go the extra mile.
“(The winning bike) was hand painted in gold, and it has pipes. We also have the aircraft carrier Captain America – very cool. He’s hiding under the seat,” Wright said
The remaining bikes and toys will go to Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserves. This year, Lockheed Martin raised $55,000, more than 200 bikes, and more than 2,000 toys exclusively for the Toys for Tots program.
“We have lots of different organizations that adopt a charity that’s close to their heart,” Wright said. “They each sort of do their own thing, while we just sort of pull them all together and have a huge impact. Can you imagine that just these employees put together and raised over $200,000 and that’s just today?”