Bikers for Tots

Bikers for Tots

Local group conducts benefit concert for Toys for Tots.

A Fairfax County motorcycle group is doing more than just going for rides. The Wednesday Night Crew is putting on a benefit show for Toys for Tots. “Whatever we can do, at any given time, we’re up for,” said Rusty Hall, a member of the crew.

The Wednesday Night Crew is an informal group that usually meets at Kilroy’s in Springfield, Hall said. On a summer night, it can have almost 200 riders, but it likes to help the community as well. “We come together and do three or four events a year,” Hall said.

This year is the second time the group has sponsored a Toys for Tots drive. The benefit, which will feature four bands, is scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 12-8 p.m., at Buffalo Wing University, 10312 Willard Way, in the Courthouse Plaza Shopping Center in Fairfax City. Admission is either a $15 cash donation or a new, unwrapped toy of equivalent value.

“It helps a good cause,” said George Pagonas, manager of the restaurant. “We’ll have the ‘big box’ out so people can make donations, and our employees will be donating, too.”

Toys for Tots is a nationwide program administered by the U.S. Marine Corps. “It provides toys for needy children throughout the country,” said Gunnery Sgt. David Billa. For two months a year, Billa runs the program for the Northern Virginia region. The rest of the year, he works to maintain light armored vehicles for the Marine Corps.

Last year, during the one month of actual collection, 76,000 toys were collected in the region and 15.1 million nationwide, Billa said. He credits groups like the Wednesday Night Crew with a big part of the success of the program. “The people are a huge player in this,” he said.

THIS DRIVE will also have special meaning for one Marine from Northern Virginia. “We’re adopting a Marine Family,” Hall said. He recently approached Billa about which Marine family they should offer to help, and Billa knew immediately which one.

Sgt. Aaron Wetherill, 28, of Woodbridge sustained a spinal injury in Iraq. Wetherill usually works as a mechanic on light armored vehicles, which Billa described as an armored personnel carrier with a 25-millimeter cannon mounted on top.

However, Wetherill found himself pulling combat duty during the first battles of the war. “Aaron was out on the initial wave of the attack,” Billa said. “While he was out on these raids, he injured his spine, and now he has permanent nerve damage.”

Wetherill, a member of Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Battalion, has not been able to go to work for about a year and a half, Billa said. The medications that he is on keep him from being able to do much, and he must visit a hospital — either Walter Reed Army Hospital in northwest Washington, D.C.; the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; or a local civilian hospital — two to four times per week, Billa said.

Wetherill and his wife, Amber, have five children – three daughters: Brady, 10; Riley, 8; Sidney, 7; and two sons: Aaron Jr., 3; and Josh, 2. Josh was born with a problem in his tear ducts, which requires regular medical attention. While the military is helping to pay for many of Wetherill’s bills, the family must still come up with co-pays.

Amber Wetherill has been unable to go to work because the medication also makes Wetherill an ineffective caregiver for the children. “The kids are really in rough shape,” Billa said. He spoke with Amber Wetherill recently and said she expressed concern about how the family would be able to afford gifts for the children this year. “I told her, 'Don’t you worry about Christmas, I’ll worry about Christmas,'” Billa said.

So far, the Wednesday Night Crew has been able to collect $500 in cash donations and gift certificates to Hooters and J.R. Stockyards so that the Wetherills can have a night out. “It will be a big morale booster for him,” Billa said.