10th Annual 4XKIDS Day at
Bradford Woods/Camp Riley - 2012
By Tracey Ladd- First Time Driver/Participate
July 14, 2012 was a day that opened my heart to a much
higher level. Before sharing my personal experience, I would
like to thank everyone who made this day possible. Those
included in this are: Hi-Lift Jack (Jason Skomp), Meyer Distributing and Jasper Seating Foundation, Inc. (Nick Gramelspacher), Akers Packaging/Hoosier Container, Inc. (Eric Barnes), WestEnd Bank (Robin Henry), O’Daniel Ford, Inc. (John Dorr), John Chapman Kiwanis Club (Ron Mattox), Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), Randy and Joanna Brooks Foundation, Iron Horse 4X4’s, Nobbies OffRoad (Jason and Patti Willis), J&T Concessions (John Davidson) and anonymous.
The day began by meeting with other Fat Boy Jeepers at Denny’s for breakfast before we headed to the camp to set up. Since this was my husband and my first time for this experience, we had no idea what to expect and were more than a little nervous. The morning started off by doing a pre-run of the course we would be taking the campers on later in the day. We then ate some WONDERFUL grilled food and other sides, which included the best tasting mushrooms that I have EVER had the chance to experience. The tasty food was prepared and furnished by Chef Jimmy Johnson of the Joilet MudTurtles.
Once we lined up to begin the trail rides for the campers, the nervousness kicked in a little more intense. While visiting the ladies room prior to the beginning ceremony, I was approached by a little girl who came up to me and said “Hi Tracey”. She then gave me a knee breaking hug with all the strength her little body had. She had read my name on my name tag and apparently knew I was one of the Jeep drivers by the Jeep on my shirt. Well, to say the least, this brought a tear to my eye. It has been a long time since I had felt appreciation like that from someone I had never even met before that instance. Upon returning to the lineup of Jeeps, the campers were already starting to arrive for the beginning ceremony. Along with the upbeat music, you could feel the happiness that each camper was carrying with them. Although each of these kids have a physical handicap, they were the most positively uplifting and optimistic, kids I have ever seen. When each of them would see all the Jeeps lined up, you could feel their overwhelming appreciation and excitement that they were going to be able to go on a Jeep ride around the camp.
I let Marty, my husband and my 12 year old grandson, Jacob takes the first trail ride with Jonathan, a 16 year old camper. I wanted to get pictures of the event as well as let my nerves calm down a little before actually taking the wheel. When they arrived back at the end of the ride, they were all smiling and had experienced such a great time not only riding in the Jeep, but getting to know each other a little better, I knew I had to take over with the rides. I ended up giving three other campers rides around the trails. One little boy, Brian, was so scared when he got into the Jeep, he was continually telling us he missed his Mom. Once I let him know I would drive “Rubi” really slow and promised that I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, he seemed to feel a little more comfortable. (By the way, my Jeep has a name and we were going to be able to drive where there weren’t even any roads.) About ¼ of a mile into the ride, he was really having fun and talked to us about everything that he was doing in camp. This was his first time at the camp and he was really enjoying it. When I let him know I was really nervous too, he laughed at me. Once we went onto part of the trail that was no longer paved road, the smile, excitement and look on his face was worth more than anything in the world.
Another one of the campers, Joel, has been going to Camp Riley for as long as he could remember. He always picks the weeks to attend the camp based on when the Jeeps are going to be there. He told us all about his brothers and sisters and how he was the lucky one out of all 11 of them because none of them have ever ridden in a Jeep.
Once the campers and counselors each got their turn at taking a ride around Bradford Woods, we all joined in for closing ceremonies. At that time, the wheelchair and wagons that were so graciously donated by the Joliet MudTurtles and Nobbies OffRoad were presented to the campers. I had never imagined how these items were such useful “tools” in helping kid’s lives a little easier. Then the money that had been raised and donated for the event was turned over. Thank you to Jerry Fuhs, the Owner of the Wilstem Ranch, for the $1000 from the proceeds received from, the 2012 4XKIDS Jam event as well as Akers Packaging/Hoosier Container for the $600 donated for our special cause.
All the campers were very grateful and appreciative of what Scott Sperling
had just handed over to them. In all actuality, it was all of us drivers and
helpers that were given more on this day than what we were able to give
to these campers. The love and personal satisfaction that went home with
Marty, Jacob and I that day is something that had never been experience
prior to this event. This truly was a life changing event that we will be a part
of as long as we are blessed with being able to.
At the end of the day, we all returned back to the tent where the food was
prepared earlier in the day and we indulged in more of the grilled food,
and of course some of those wonderful mushrooms. I have never eaten so
many gourmet mushrooms, but hope I am given that opportunity again as
well. Thank you Scott Sperling for allowing us to be a part of this special
event which is for a GREAT cause.