What started out as a way for Virginia Pearson to help her daughter cope with what she calls ‘deployment blues' turned into a true calling. Now in its eighth year, Operation Sandbox is still working hard to make sure that those serving their country have everything they need to make their lives more bearable during active duty.
On Oct. 20, the fifth annual "Ride for the Troops" will help continue Pearson's vision. Held at Stone Mountain Harley Davidson in Rockdale County, the ride saw roughly 100 participants last year and countless more that came to enjoy the day and show their support. Pearson hopes this year will be even bigger.
Although the event is a bike ride, Pearson stressed that everyone is welcome and urged to come. The registration for those participating in the actual ride begins at 8 a.m., but the real fun starts at 10:45 with a patriotic program. There will also be food, vendors, a live band, soldiers and Humvees and the U.S. Army Orange County Chopper will be on display during the event.
The ride itself will leave the Harley Davidson location at 11:30 a.m. and travel through Rockdale, Walton and Newton counties. The cost is $20 per biker and $10 per passenger. Those with an active military ID get half off of registration, and the first 200 to register will receive t-shirts, Chick-fil-A biscuits and Starbucks coffee.
Pearson said that she does not take a salary, nor do any of her volunteers receive pay for the work they do. All the money raised goes right back into supporting the troops.
"When I first started it was to help my daughter get through the deployment blues. When people heard what we were doing, they started to send monetary donations and items that the troops were requesting. We have now reached 86,000 [with the program]," she said. "I am very grateful for the freedom I have and I appreciate all of our military who are making sacrifices so that we can remain free here in the U.S. But I could never do it without the support of patriotic Americans."