Iowa OHV Association Holds “Thank You For Your Service Ride”
By Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer
What was intended to be a special, one-day event in June called the “Thank You For Your Service Ride,” has turned into so much more. Thirty members from Iowa’s off-highway vehicle (OHV) clubs trailered their multi-passenger recreational off-highway vehicles (commonly referred to as “side-by-sides”) to the Iowa Veterans Home to give 100 veterans and staff members a ride on the grounds of the 150-acre facility. Opened in 1887, the Iowa Veterans Home is one of the largest state-owned facilities in the nation, and home to over 500 veterans.
The ride was envisioned as an opportunity to thank veterans for their service, but it was ultimately rewarding for all involved.
“It was a tie on who enjoyed the day more, the veterans, the staff or the drivers,” said Dan Kleen, event organizer. “Everyone was smiling the entire day.”
Kleen, the external relations director for the Iowa OHV Association (IOHVA), initially expected the ride to occur at a nearby OHV Park but was delighted once he was offered the opportunity to have the ride take place on the grounds of the Veteran’s Home.
“For many of the veterans it was their first ride, and the first time they had seen the expansive grounds of the Iowa Veterans Home, and the river that runs alongside it,” said Kleen.
Holding the event on the facility’s grounds also allowed for more participation. Kleen continued, “When we first got there, 40 residents had signed up, but word got around quickly, and by the end of the day we had given more than 100 rides. Veterans in their late fifties to their eighties took rides. They had various abilities and limitations. Some needed more assistance than others and were accompanied by staff members in the 4-seat side-by-sides.”
Veteran’s Home staff were also thrilled with the ride. “I was very excited to be part of this event. I’ve never seen so many happy residents,” said Matt McAllister, Recreational Therapist.”
“I have had many staff and residents express how great the opportunity was for the residents and how smoothly it went. There were a few residents who just were not sure of riding, but once they went they wanted to go again,” said Emily Hall, Recreation Bureau Chief.
The day was such a success, a second ride day was added. “We thought it was going to be the first annual Iowa Veterans Home Ride, but it was such a huge success that they asked us back for another ride this fall,” said Kleen. “A second ride was held on September 22nd, with veterans aged 32 to 102 participating. It was another amazing day.”
In a presentation at the annual conference of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), Kleen, who is also NOHVCC president, reported on the event to OHV industry leaders and state and federal OHV program managers from around the country. He encouraged OHV clubs and organizations to create a veterans’ ride in their local area, and said he is glad to offer his advice and experience.
Finally, Kleen noted, “Thirty percent of vets have disabilities as a result of their service. That’s 3.8 million veterans. We challenge each of you to work with your organizations to host a ride. There are many programs out there, like Wounded Warriors, helping our veterans, but they are often limited on the number of vets they can help. We can change that. Each of us can help by organizing small, local events.”
Iowa has eight state-sponsored OHV Parks and six registered clubs that work with the Iowa DNR to manage them. For more information on the IOHVA, visit its website at https://iowaohv.org . To contact Dan Kleen for tips on organizing a ride for veterans in your area, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.