Last month I was notified by our communications officer at ABATE of California that my friends at Illusion Cycles in Westminster were hosting a shoe drive for the American Soldier Network. The American Soldier Network was founded by Annie Nelson right after 9/11. Annie does an extraordinary amount of charity to help our troops. Illusion Cycles builds custom motorcycles and is owned by Rusty and Katherine Coones. They are incredibly charitable people. Rusty also plays Quinn on Sons of Anarchy and plays in a band. With all of these incredible people involved, it was a no-brainer for me that I would have to get involved with this awesome effort to help our troops via the American Soldier Network and to shoe some third world countries at the same time. So I reached out to all my contacts in the Barstow and Victor Valley. The high desert communities did not let me down.

I want to thank everybody who helped with this drive. Although we fell short of our goal of 25,000 pairs of shoes, the drive still collected over 13,000 pairs of old worn out shoes and therefore the American Soldier Network will still get a sizable check and of course that will benefit a great deal of soldiers such as our Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton that we are helping with their 7th annual Christmas drive.

My biggest thanks must go to the Quail Valley Middle School in the awesome Snowline School District. Quail Valley ASB officers Andrew, Carly, Ryan, and Erica, decided after reading about this drive in the Victor Valley Daily Press that they wanted to get involved. And get involved they did! They garnered support from every junior patriot in that school to be our biggest donors of 1708 pairs of shoes! The Snowline School District, the Quail Valley Middle School, and most importantly, all the students at the school should be proud! Those students are our future. I am so proud of them.

And of course Harley Davidson of Victorville once again stepped up to the plate. Not only were they the drop off point that collected the most amount of shoes (thousands of pairs), they donated their truck, trailer, and driver to help deliver all those shoes to my store for bagging. Stop in and tell the folks at Harley thank you!

I could fill an entire newspaper with great stories of all the high desert helpers, but space limitations forbid me from doing so. So hoping not to forget anybody, I want to give special recognition to the Barstow Patriot Forum, the Barstow Senior Citizen Center and Thrift Store, All Recycling in Barstow, First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Barstow Home Depot, Barstow Fire District, Vista Verde Elementary School in Victorville, awesome patriot Darian Newton and his Silver Valley High School Youth for Christ Club!

Of the 13,000 pairs of shoes collected, the high desert was responsible for over 6,000 of them! Considering that this drive encompassed all of Southern California, I will say; Great job and thank you high desert people! Next year we will have more notice and I believe we can collect all 25,000 pairs by ourselves!

Nick Benson Sr.

Barstow