On October 1, 2019 NOHVCC hosted a webinar titled “Learn How To Host Rides for Veterans.” NOHVCC Chairman and External Relations Director for the Iowa OHV Association Dan Kleen, who has organized several veterans’ rides in Iowa, served as the webinar’s presenter. He highlighted the rides for veterans in Iowa and hoped to provide participants with all the information and tools necessary for clubs across the Country to replicate Iowa’s success. Arizona State Parks and Trails proved the webinar was a success!

After participating in the webinar Matthew Eberhart, State Off-Highway Vehicle Coordinator for Arizona State Parks & Trails got together with his team and decided to host a veteran’s ride of their own. With limited time between the webinar and Veterans Day, it was decided to host the ride a couple weeks after Veteran’s Day to ensure all the pieces could come together smoothly.

Matthew reached out to the local Royal Oaks Retirement Community in Sun City, Arizona and asked if any of their residents who are veterans or spouses of veterans would like the opportunity to visit a nearby riding area to go for a ride in an ROV (side-by-side). The Royal Oaks facility posted flyers and Matthew was ecstatic with the overwhelming response, saying, “the immediate outpouring of response took us back. We knew we had to make this happen.”

Matthew continued, “These types of events aren’t possible without the dedicated work of volunteers and outstanding partners. Our OHV Ambassador volunteers and the vendors that came to the table can either make or break an event. Understandably, when you reach out to people and let them know you are trying to do something to give back to veterans, they are often eager to help.” As a result, he was able to quickly put together a list of volunteers and sponsors (listed below).  

On the day of the event, a local charter bus service picked up the honorees from the Royal Oaks Retirement Community and drove them 35 minutes to the riding area. Matthew used the time on the bus to talk to everyone about Arizona State Parks and Trails and OHV use on public lands in Arizona. Once everyone was onsite, they were treated to bagels, coffee and other treats as they prepared for the ride.

Ultimately, about 45 honorees were given an opportunity to ride along in a side-by-side. Matthew said that the veterans “ate it up.” And, “they all had smiles on their faces, and everyone was asking ‘when is the next ride?’”

The ride itself was a 10-mile loop that took about an hour to complete. Once everyone got back to the staging area and out of their helmets they were treated to lunch and provided “goodie bags” donated by Arizona Game and Fish.

When asked if this type of ride could be replicated in other areas/States, Matthew said, “It is certainly doable. We participated in the NOHVCC webinar on October 1st and got to work on October 2nd. We had to do some research, like making sure risk management would allow us to use agency vehicles for the ride. Risk management gave us their blessing so long as participants wore appropriate safety gear. Then became what seemed to be an even more daunting task of getting helmets for everyone. Luckily, we were able to locate a rental company who donated helmets for the day.” Another hurdle was the question of whether a permit would be required for the event. Matthew said, “it turned out we did not need a permit as our event would consist of fewer than 75 people, but these are the type of issues that would need to be resolved by anyone hosting a similar event.”

The success of the ride, put together with limited time to plan, has inspired Matthew to look for even bigger and better things for 2020 and beyond. “The response on social media has been fantastic. Now we hope to take some time and plan the next event. We may work towards recruiting local OHV enthusiasts who are veterans themselves to participate by taking other veterans for rides. We plan to continue to work with Royal Oaks, and will certainly be recruiting other partners in 2020. Growing this event is extremely important to us.”

While the clear goal of this and other veterans’ events is to honor those who have served, Matthew also noticed a secondary benefit of the ride. “Some people who are unfamiliar with OHV recreation may view this sports community as “bad boys” seeking fast and loud experiences without regard for sustainability or community. Rides like the one we hosted for veterans can help expose the broader community to responsible OHV use. As a life-long rider, I am proud that OHV enthusiasts responded so quickly and overwhelmingly to help those who have given us so much.”

Sponsors of the ride included:
Glendale Sam’s Club – $25 Gift card used for beverages
Phoenix Sam’s Club – $50 Gift card used for beverages
Arrow Line Charters – Discounted charter rental
Trophy Lite Industries – Vehicles, drivers, and helmets
Arizona Outdoor Fun – Helmets
Arizona Game and Fish Department – Drivers
Arizona OHV Ambassadors – Drivers
Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Group – Planning and drivers
Connected Horizons – $250 Donation for purchasing lunch
Veterans from central office – Drivers and cooking
Cindy Rogers – Baked cookies, cooking on site, serving and socializing

PHOTO CREDITS: Elijio Carlos Ramirez

NOHVCC encourages anyone who would like to organize a veterans’ ride to reach out to us at trailhead@nohvcc.org.

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