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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Children explore various trucks at annual ‘Touch-a-Truck’ fundraiser

A local child fidgets with gadgets and controls of the retired UH-1M war helicopter brought to Touch a Truck day by the Vietnam Veterans of America Corporation on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in the West Campus parking lot at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. The twin blade chopper named Huey, was used in the Vietnam War as a gunship and donated to the VVA by Gerry Roberson.

Children took over the cockpits of more than 40 trucks, tractors, emergency vehicles and busses at the ninth annual Postpartum Education for Parents “Touch-a-Truck” fundraiser held on Sunday in the West Campus parking lot.

The sounds of honking horns, ringing bells and the chirp of sirens filled the air while children pulled their parents from vehicle to vehicle, balloons tied around their wrists and yellow and pink hard hats on their heads.

“It’s the sheer joy of children,” said Natascha Cohen, director of major events for PEP. “Seeing them play on these vehicles is very rewarding.”

Cohen became involved with PEP after she started going to the New Parents Group meetings, which are held every Thursday at Trinity Lutheran Church.

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“That was about 11 months ago. I made lifelong friends through the group and started volunteering, ” said Cohen, who brought in many local sponsors for the children’s fundraiser.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for the kids getting to pull the levers and honk the horns,” said Michael Berg, one of the representatives for the  Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Berg was spreading awareness for the “Nature Exchange” program, where children can trade in rocks, seashells or other artifacts found in nature in exchange for tickets and rewards from the Museum’s Mission campus.

Children had the time of their lives while running around, climbing on trucks and making noise.

“He’s having so much fun, and he definitely loving making noise,” said City College student Kaelynn Stiles, while her son Cayden repeatedly smashed the horn of a street sweeper truck.

Along with fire trucks, police cars, trolleys and several types of heavy machinery provided by sponsors, there were also jump-houses, shaved ice and face painting available for the two thousand children, parents, and volunteers in attendance. 

But the stars of the show were the Lenco Bearcat, a 20 thousand-pound high-security behemoth brought by Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, and the 50-foot long “Huey” Helicopter, provided by the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The Bearcat, one of two in the city, is used by SWAT Teams for high-risk warrants, raids, and were tantamount in the search and rescue aftermath of the January 2018 Montecito debris flow.

“We found out it was the only thing that could get into some of the areas,” said Detective Matt Banks, while fitting a small boy into a tactical vest and helmet. “It really played a big part.”

The “Huey” helicopter, one of seven thousand used from 1965-1972 during the Vietnam war, was a hit with all those who got to hop inside.

“I don’t know who’s having more fun, the kids or the parents.” said Frank Torres, a Vietnam Vet who worked from ‘70-’72 as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. 

The Touch-a-Truck event will resume next year, and PEP will continue to hold classes, groups, and offer resources to all those struggling within the new world of parenting.

Volunteers are encouraged to keep the non-profit growing and helping parents of Santa Barbara.

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