Meet 2021’s Land Rover Defender Service Award Winners
The Land Rover Defender Service Awards from 2021 cover a range of community services. Here are the winners—and how they've put their new Defenders to use.
Rushing across a beach to save a family’s home from fire. Rescuing an injured rock climber in a remote wilderness. Saving stranded sea turtles and seals. Doing good can be hard work—the kind of hard work that demands dedicated advocates and a vehicle up to the task. That’s why Land Rover launched its Defender Service Awards last year. The program helps the people who spend every day supporting their communities and fighting for a healthy planet. In the inaugural program, seven nonprofits each won a customized Defender SUV to help them do what they do best—serve others.
As you’ll see from the winners’ stories below, the Defender Service Awards have provided critical support to critical causes. That’s why the program is back in 2022. Winners in five categories—Animal Welfare, Search and Rescue, Veterans Outreach, Community Service, and Environmental and Conservation—will each get a Defender 130 as well as $25,000 in cash (additional cash prizes will be awarded to all finalists).
Outside Sponsors Land Rover Defender Environmental & Conservation Award
It gets better. The Defender Service Awards align perfectly with the values at Outside, and we’re proud to join the program as a category sponsor this year. Outside is sponsoring the Environmental and Conservation award, for which we’ll help choose the winner and donate the $25,000 prize.
The 2022 finalists will be announced on October 21.
Public voting will follow from October 21 through November 6. Visit LandRoverUSA.com for more information.
How have the winners put their new Defenders to use? We caught up with them to find out.
COASTAL & MARINE CONSERVATION
Riverhead, New York
When someone finds a sick or hurt seal, sea turtle, dolphin, or other marine creature, this rescue and rehabilitation center (the only one in New York State) answers the call. The center has rescued more than 3,900 animals since it opened in 1996; after saving an animal, the team of biologists helps rehabilitate it so it can return to the wild. Public education and animal research are also big parts of this nonprofit’s mission. The Rescue Center uses its new Defender to access remote sites for animal rescues and transport staff and gear to events like beach cleanups and school programs. “We’re able to bring it out onto the beaches, which gets us to more remote locations,” says Director Danielle Pirello. “It makes the response time much quicker.”
What cleans the air, filters water, and absorbs climate-warming carbon dioxide all at once? Trees. That’s why this nonprofit aims to help communities worldwide plant more of them, thereby restoring forests and contributing to a healthier ecosystem and global climate. So far, the team has planted more than 40 million trees in more than 47 countries. The group’s “Treefender” has already attended planting events in New England, supported tree projects along a cross-country road trip, and towed a mobile seedbank (a trailer that helps teach planters how to collect and care for native tree species). “A reliable all-wheel-drive vehicle is a game changer for getting to planting sites and monitoring tree growth,” says Senior Marketing Manager Kat Johnson.
FIRE SAFETY & RESPONSE
On a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Navarre Beach Fire Rescue must contend with structure fires, medical incidents, vehicle accidents, and trouble on the water—with many of these emergencies occurring right on the sand where a typical vehicle could get stuck. “The Land Rover performs exceptionally well on our sugar-white beaches,” reports Chief Danny Fureigh. “The off-road capabilities are the main advantage to our department.” The Defender has so far responded to a number of house fires, missing children, and other beach emergencies.
Belle Meade, New Jersey
In this northern New Jersey community, neighbors really help neighbors. Montgomery EMS maintains an all-volunteer crew of first responders who provide emergency help at no cost to those who need it. Running on donations, the nonprofit responds to 911 calls—about 1,400 every year, and the number is growing—and also supplies backup support at sporting events and fires. “Adding the Defender has been a huge help in allowing our members to keep up with the increasing call volume while maintaining quick response times and ensuring high-quality emergency medical care,” says member Tharun Potluri. The team has also equipped its Defender with the gear to haul its special-operations trailer for fire response.
SEARCH & RESCUE
The highly skilled volunteers who make up Wolfe County SAR respond to lost-person incidents and rock-climbing accidents in the beautiful and rugged Red River Gorge region, a service area of more than 400 square miles. They have the know-how to pull off technical, high-angle rope rescues on the gorge’s vertical walls, often working in difficult weather conditions to keep visitors safe—such as during the historic flooding of 2021. The SAR team relies on its new Defender to handle the area’s rough, rutted, and often wet access roads so they can respond quickly to the next emergency.
Bridgehampton, New York
This nonprofit’s T-shirts and caps say #ICARE, and that’s exactly what its staff does, helping community members in need through food outreach, mental health services, youth programs, emergency home repair, and more. “We used to struggle to find vehicles equipped to transport building materials to hard-to-reach, wooded areas,” says founder and Executive Director Marit Molin. “That’s no longer an issue.” The team has used the Defender to carry food and building supplies to people in need and transport children and elders to medical appointments.
The staff and volunteers at this Humane Society consider themselves the defenders of their community’s animals. Their mission: rescue dogs and cats that have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, then find them all loving homes. In Independence County’s rough and remote terrain, that often means traversing difficult back roads to reach an animal in need. With the new Defender making rescue access much easier, that’s one less challenge these animal defenders have to worry about.
Finalists will be announced on October 21 with public voting from October 21 through November 6. Learn more about the Defender Service Awards and previous winners.