Wow what a great event this turned out to be!!
On Saturday, June 9th we held the first ever Thank You For Your Service Ride at the Iowa Veteran’s home in Marshalltown. Thank you to all who were able to help make this an event all the residents at the Iowa Veteran’s Home will be talking about for quite awhile.
The morning started out with rain threatening to change our plans but luckily had broke up and missed us all together. This was a first for an IOHVA event and we were not water logged and weren’t sure how to handle that kind of event luck ha! We all met in the North lot on the campus and unloaded there to set up for the day. We had a brief meeting to go over the plan and make sure all volunteers were signed in and ready for the day. From there we took a tour of the approved route we were to follow for the day which included a nice loop along the Iowa River then back around the rolling hills in the cemetery area.
Once we had seen the routes we were to follow we then had gone to the first two buildings to start the rides. We had split our members and machines into two groups and went to work. There were many mixed reactions when the men and women came to take their turn. Most people were excited to hop in while some even had to be convinced to get in one. One thing was common by the end of each ride, nobody wanted to get back out. This was true for all ages, physical conditions, and yes even women who loved it. In many cases residents had taken a second turn if there was time so they could continue the fun. In the afternoon I MAY have told residents a little secret about how if they went to the second loading spot they could sneak in a second ride as well. It sure was funny to see them after that in another machine as we crossed paths and they had waved so big and both knew they had done just that.
The stories we heard from these folks were truly amazing. Everything from childhood memories to life after their time in the service. They were all so anxious to chat with someone new and told of things this ride had reminded them of. I personally was reminded of my grandfather and his many stories almost every ride. The residents would have you slow down past their friends who happened to be sitting out front of the other buildings and they would wave and shout like they were in a parade of one. For them this was a great chance to see areas of the grounds they had never been to. Many folks talked about how they hadn’t even seen that river in the many years they had been there. Others told stories of trying to get down that way on walks but it was simply too far.
One of my personal favorite things was when a gentleman noticed the large and full mulberry tree just along the one route. I slowed to a stop next to this and reached up to grab a large handful to try. When we shared these juicy treats he had immediately smiled so big you could see it through the helmet. He told me of the many times as a child he wold climb a tree like this in his yard and eat the berries until he about burst. That moment alone made my whole day worth it, the rest was just a huge bonus. To be able to take someone back in their mind simply by grabbing a handful of berries was so influential and I will remember that always.
In the afternoon the sun had shown up and started to warm things up pretty quick, but that didn’t stop those wanting to get in on all the fun they had seen out their windows from the morning groups. We again had two groups of machines to cover two different loading areas. The people lined up and had sought shade wherever they could, as long as it was close to the next free seat in a machine so they didn’t miss their shot. We were all quite warm and a bit sweaty, but nobody cared a bit. Once we started rolling the breeze would make it much more bearable.
We would like to thank Dan Kleen, our Public Relations director for setting up such a great event. We all came together to help later in planning and prep, but he was the one who started the initial planning with this. We had 18 side by side machines, 30 volunteers, and gave rides to over 80 residents throughout the day. The folks at the IVH were more than accommodating and provided us with lunch for our efforts. We have already been in contact with them to look at not only making this a yearly event, but also adding a Fall date as well to get back and see the colors next time as well. We hope to continue building this as time goes on and look to members to help with that work.
This was hands down my favorite event since coming to the IOHVA and so very proud of our group for making this a huge hit!
Look for updates in the near future and lets get back there to have another great time!!
-Justin Rath, President IOHVA