by | Mar 20, 2023

Northwest Missouri UTV ride benefits veterans

The row of utility task vehicles (UTVs) slowly snaking through Cameron seems endless. The hundreds of riders have the same destination: Cameron Veterans Home. Once there, they kick off this patriotic day visiting with the residents they’re raising money for and listening to a rendition of the national anthem. “I don’t think there’s a person that doesn’t have tears or goosebumps,” says event organizer Amy Ford. “It’s inspiring.”

Amy and her husband, Jim, are founding members of the Northwest Missouri UTV Patriot Riders. For five years, the Ford family has helped organize the UTV Patriot Ride benefiting the Cameron Veterans Home Assistance League. What started as a humble event of a few dozen “buggies” led by Amy’s parents traversing the greater Cameron area has grown exponentially to more than 300 UTVs and 700 people in 2022 raising $34,000. They are expecting even more riders in 2023 — along with more than 100 sponsors and volunteers — who are passionate about giving back to those who gave more.

After the Fords were introduced to the assistance league, they set out to create an event where those who raise money for the league can see the fruits of their labor. 

“We thought about what was popular in our area and people love riding these UTVs,” Amy says. “It was a simple idea. In 2018, we put something together with no sponsors and just spread the word online and had about 30 riders.” 

This year’s Patriot Ride will be about 50 miles. Amy says the first few years of the family-friendly event included about an 85-mile ride with a lot of gravel travel averaging around 30 mph. Over the years, riders have indicated they wanted to incorporate more trails into the ride.

“The more trails the route encompasses, the less mileage you actually travel,” says Amy, a Missouri Farm Bureau insurance agent. “Safety is our main priority.”

All proceeds from sponsorships, entry fees and donations go directly to the assistance league, whose sole purpose is to support the veterans home. Roger Foreman is vice chairman of the league and says that money goes a long way in helping the veterans.

“It’s all about the quality of life for these veterans,” says Roger, a Vietnam War veteran himself. “I call it things that are above room and board. Things above what the state or the VA can provide.”

The Cameron Veterans Home — one of seven in Missouri — currently has four wheelchair-accessible vans, all purchased by the assistance league. “They use these for doctors and dentists appointments, but also entertainment like if we take them to a Royals game, restaurant or fishing trip,” Roger says.

On top of the convenience of the transportation for veterans, the league provides plenty of recreational benefits to the residents according to Brad Haggard, supervisor of volunteer services for the Cameron Veterans Home.

“We’ve done bingo or poker for them,” he says. “I don’t know how many Kansas City Chiefs rallies we held in the run to the Super Bowl, but we did wings one day for them and pizza another. It just means so much to those veterans to do some of these extra things the state might not typically pay for.”

Other purchases include those that assist veterans who may spend more time on the Cameron campus, including large-screen TVs, an ice cream machine, special holiday meals, benches and landscaping.

At the ride this year will be Cameron Native Kelly Eads. Shortly after 9/11, Kelly enlisted in the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. He will be signing his just-released book, “Black Hearts and Painted Guns: A Battalion’s Journey into Iraq’s Triangle of Death.”

This year’s Patriot Ride will be on April 29, beginning at C.P. Excavating in Cameron. After registration, riders parade to the veterans home for the opening ceremony, safety meeting and take off for their day of riding at 10:30 a.m. Cost to register is $60 per UTV.

Roger says that the opening ceremony is not only a way for riders to honor the veterans — most stop to visit with them — but it also gives the riders a chance to see the good the money they raise is doing in their community. “We spend 100% of our energy and resources to make life better for these veterans,” Roger says. “But seeing virtually everyone come over and shake their hands and thank them was something different. You could see the smile on their faces looking out at the awesome sight of that many people supporting them.”

For more information on the UTV Patriot Ride, call 816-294-7731 or search for 5th Annual UTV Patriot Ride Cameron MO on Facebook. To register for the April 29 ride, visit here.

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