MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Ten airmen assigned to Misawa’s Security Hill pedaled 60 miles round trip Friday for a good cause.

For at least the past six years, the hill’s Senior Enlisted Council has organized the fall bike ride between Misawa and Lake Towada to raise money for the annual Red Feather campaign, said Master Sgt. Brian VanNierop, the 373rd Support Squadron’s noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of configurations and engineering and the coordinator of this year’s event.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us to give back to the Japanese community,” he said.

The Hill’s bike ride represents one of several efforts on base to raise money for Red Feather, an annual community-chest drive throughout Japan seeking donations for the country’s orphanages, child-care centers, single parents, needy families, Red Cross volunteer groups and institutions for the elderly, sick and physically and mentally handicapped. Base officials said most of the money collected on base is turned over to the local Misawa community.

The Security Hill riders collected pledges for the ride — either per kilometer or a flat rate, VanNierop said. The group typically raises about $1,500 but VanNierop — a rider himself who rounded up 400 pledges — said he was hoping to reach about $2,000 because this was his last year organizing the event.

Riders left the Potter Fitness Center at 7 a.m. Friday and biked to the mouth of the Oirase Gorge at Lake Towada and back. Four pit stops staffed by volunteers from Security Hill were to be set up along the way; a chase vehicle followed the last rider in case any of the airmen experienced problems on the road. Participants also received a safety briefing about sharing narrow roads with cars and farm vehicles, VanNierop said.

“We have airmen riding, chief master sergeants — every level in the enlisted ranks,” he said.

Another Red Feather fund-raiser was to kick off Monday at Sollars Elementary School, which last year collected almost $2,500 for the campaign. The school designates each day a different coin, gathering pennies or one-yen coins on Monday; nickel/five yen coins on Tuesday; dime/10 yen coins on Wednesday; quarter/50 yen coins on Thursday; and dollar bills/100 yen coins on Friday.

“The children really get into the spirit of giving and are excited about the good they can do with their pennies and more,” said Marianne Reaves, the school’s information specialist, noting students may donate any kind of coin on any day of the campaign.

Base residents also can donate to Red Feather by contacting their unit Red Feather representative or Major LeVette Hamblin at The campaign ends Oct. 1.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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