Glen Whelan - Volunteer with Brave Charlie Tango bikers

Glen Whelan
from Glen

I foolishly asked Glen why Tango and not Delta at the start of our conversation but he pointed out it is using the NATO phonetic alphabet to spell out Bikers Coming Through. Of course, it does, with the Tango giving the organisation’s name a real sense of urgency and some speed. Bravo Charlie Tango is a nationwide group of volunteer bikers who are helping deliver PPE equipment across Ireland.

To date there are some 1000 volunteers in Ireland, with 72 of them based in Wicklow and they are doing deliveries non-stop across the island.

Glen is a keen biker. Last year he had a bad injury when his bike fell on top of him. There was no speed involved but he managed to break nearly every bone in his body. It has been a tough recovery process but with the support of his fiance he is now back biking.  When he heard of the Bravo Charlie Tango he volunteered immediately and is now co-ordinating the Wicklow response.

“The good point from the injury is that I set up a home office which came in very handy when we had the lockdown. Now, as coordinator and volunteer it gives me purpose during these tough days.”

I remark that my younger brother was a biker and lover of cars. He used to own an old jag and he would often tell his wife he was going out to get some milk. Instead of going to the nearest shop he might go on a twenty mile drive just for sheer joy of it. Glen and I discuss the passion that bikers feel on the road. It is hard to describe but it is a thing. Of course, with all non-essential travel banned, there was no outlet for bikers to engage in their hobby.

Immediately prior to the lockdown, there were many rallies and driving competitions when bikers might be given a set of coordinates and then drive to that spot, take a picture and post it online. Overnight it was all gone – but that is where Bravo Charlie Tango took up the challenge.

It is fitting that the biker volunteers can combine their passion with helping. Despite the tough image of bikers might have with loud bikes and leather clothing, often these tough looking men – and it is predominantly men – have the biggest hearts. There are many biker rallies that raise much needed money for children’s charities such as the Laura Lynn hospice or Crumlin Children’s hospital.

The biker volunteers not only donate their time, they also pay all their costs including petrol and wear and tear on their bikes.

It is also not just PPE that is delivered. Powerscourt Gardens in Wicklow telephoned the group saying that they had thousands of tulips in bloom and no one to see them. The group organised for a number of vans and volunteers to come to the gardens, cut the flowers and then deliver them to nursing homes around the county and beyond.

Other items that are transported by Bravo Charlie Tango volunteers are baby monitors and walkie talkies. These can be a real boon for nursing staff, especially in residential settings. To visit each patient on routine checkups requires time and PPE. Using baby monitors the nurses can speak with the patients, making sure they are okay, but without having to use precious PPE.

It’s a tough time for many but Glen really enjoys the volunteering – it gives him a buzz. As we speak, his second screen is listing all the current biker requests and the subsequent take-up by biker volunteers. There are at least five during our short conversation.

“This is what we did during the crisis,” he says smiling.

Wicklow Good News was set up by Jillian Godsil and Marlena Murphy to celebrate the resilience and the enthusiam of Wicklow Citizens during the COVID19 pandemic.



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