Five Nonprofits Win Big
The inaugural Destination Defender event celebrated the winners of the Defender Service Awards—and treated hundreds of Land Rover enthusiasts to a weekend of outdoor adventure, education, and family fun
Call it a community. Call it a club. Call it a clan. Whatever you call it, the special blend of camaraderie, passion, and service that Land Rover inspires sparked hundreds of enthusiasts to gather for Destination Defender, a weekend celebration held in New York’s Hudson Valley. The secret sauce was on full display during the November event, prompting one longtime Land Rover fan to predict of newcomers, “They’re gonna get converted. They’re gonna get hooked.”
The Land Rover Defender Collection Whether you’re on a road trip, in an off-roading competition, or rescuing marine wildlife, the Land Rover Defender is the vehicle for the job.
But the conversions were just a by-product of the festival atmosphere and activities. The inaugural event was organized around a central mission: to celebrate the ethos of the Land Rover Defender and announce the winners of the 2022 Defender Service Awards. The program, now in its second year, is a tangible way for Land Rover to deliver on the Defender’s legacy as the vehicle of choice for people doing good. The winning nonprofit organizations in five categories each get a Land Rover Defender 130, the latest addition to the Defender family, and $25,000 in cash to support their work. (See the 2021 winners.)
First on the weekend’s agenda, however: a full immersion in Defender culture. That meant plenty of Defender ogling, of course, as the crowd checked out new and vintage rigs. That’s part of the fun for obsessives like Mark Wilmore, a New Jersey resident who owns seven Land Rovers (“I caught the bug!” he says.) Wilmore and other attendees didn’t just look at Defenders; they also tested their skills on an off-road driving course that had an extra helping of four-wheel-proving mud.
Elsewhere on the grounds of Oz Farm, you could try slacklining or a climbing wall or mountain biking, or join seminars on outdoor cooking and photography. Robert Workman from Barebones Living, Ashley Rodriguez from Kitchen Unnecessary, and Outside chef Biju Thomas gave eat-and-learn presentations on everything from country omelets to chile-and-coffee-rubbed steak tenderloin. And National Geographic photographer Andy Best gave tips on astrophotography.
Or you could simply listen to live music in the fall sunshine and watch your kid drive a mini Land Rover. That’s what Nick Rigg (Defender 110) did, and he said watching his daughter take the wheel was the highlight of the weekend.
For the finalists of the Defender Service Awards, the highlight was no doubt the awards ceremony. They gathered—a little anxiously—in the Ruby Barn, which transformed to include a welcoming dinner banquet and stage. The stakes were high. All 25 finalists (five in each category) were guaranteed at least a $5,000 prize (thanks to Chase Bank) with an additional match that was revealed in a surprise announcement, but the five winners would get the customized Defender 130 and 25 grand. That’s a big boost for a small nonprofit.
Here’s who took home the grand prizes. (See their award presentations and check out the rest of the finalists here.)
Animal Welfare Award (Presented by Kong)
Ever wondered what happens to injured and orphaned bear cubs? Without help, many would die. Appalachian Bear Rescue provides that help, rescuing cubs and caring for them until they can be returned to the wild. Headquartered in Tennessee, just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the rescue squad roams all over the remote Appalachians. “Bears live in hard-to-access areas,” says the group’s Coy Blair. “The Defender 130 will help us get there.”
Veterans Outreach Award (Presented by dentsu x)
This Florida-based nonprofit trains service dogs to support veterans struggling with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, mobility loss, and other challenges. Each dog in the program undergoes a two-year training regimen conducted by volunteer puppy raisers and incarcerated women in the WOOF Prison Program at Lowell Correctional Facility. This dual training program creates a unique bond among volunteers in the community, incarcerated women, sponsorship donors, and the veteran recipients.
Environmental and Conservation Award (Presented by Outside Interactive)
The deepest inland lake in Wisconsin is a natural treasure that’s threatened by invasive blue-green algae and other environmental hazards. Improving Green Lake’s water quality takes science-based action and community commitment, both of which this nonprofit provides. The Defender 130 is key to Green Lake Association’s plans to launch a new mobile water-testing program. “We have a fleet of donated kayaks and boats that are stuck on the ground with no way to get them to the water,” says Executive Director Stephanie Prellwitz. Problem solved.
Community Services Award (Presented by ei3)
“We believe food is love, and that recovery after a disaster starts with sharing a meal.” That’s the way Mercy Chefs sums up its simple but powerful mission. The faith-based nonprofit provides professionally prepared meals to victims, volunteers, and first responders in emergencies and natural disasters across the country. In the aftermath of floods and fires, the Defender 130 will allow Mercy Chefs to deliver meals to isolated communities.
Search and Rescue Award (Presented by Pelican)
Search-and-rescue teams all over North America are often volunteers, and this Ontario-based group exemplifies that SAR ethic. Its rescue efforts are conducted entirely by volunteers who buy their own gear. Some missions take them deep into remote, hard-to-reach areas, where the Defender 130 could literally be a lifesaver.
Needless to say, all of these nonprofits have now joined the Land Rover community. Or club. Or clan. Whatever you call it, programs like the Defender Service Awards and events like Destination Defender mean it will continue to grow.
Founded in 1948, Land Rover designs and engineers its vehicles in the United Kingdom. For over 70 years the brand has built a reputation for providing its clientele with some of the most luxurious and capable vehicles in the world, whether for driving through the heart of the city or traversing the countryside on- and off-road. Today’s Land Rover lineup includes the Defender; Discovery and Discovery Sport; Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover Velar; and Range Rover Evoque. Land Rover is fully engaged with sustainability initiatives and social concerns with continuous involvement in environmental and community programs. For more information, visit the official Land Rover website at landroverusa.com.