Monday, March 26, 2012

Sharing the Adventure of a Lifetime with Mud Buddies

Hey folks, Big Jim here with an interesting yarn to share with my Ridin’ friends….

A few years ago, I was at a board meeting of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority when the slogan, “The Adventure of a Lifetime” came up. I felt then, as I do now, that it was a great slogan indeed.
Remember, initially I was critical of the idea of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, until a friend took me ATV riding on the trails and I SAW what it was that appealed to folks. I realized HMT could become a TREMENDOUS success and a great opportunity for the people of Southern West Virginia to carve out their own place in state industry with tourism. I also felt HMT could be the impetus needed to get many local people to take pride in our region and to start caring for it as back then we had a really bad pollution problem, (which over the years people did indeed start cleaning up and produced less pollution).
Laugh if you will, as I went rushing up, down and around through the hills and hollows on a Honda Rubicon, my first thought was, “This must be what it felt like to ride on one of those Celtic war chariots I read about in college when a literature teacher had us read “The Tain” the national epic of Ireland." Now THIS was adventure. THIS was really living! The beauty of the great outdoors and the adrenalin rush of riding an All Terrain Vehicle combined were something special!
And over the years, a LOT of people just like you and me have enjoyed a heapin’ dose of Adventure on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Along the way those fine folks have also experienced fun, friendship and occasionally, even some romance.
Two such people were Mike and Susie Rasmussen…They are originally from New York, and they “hitched the knot” as we say locally at the Hatfield-McCoy Trails during one of our events. In addition to having fun and making freinds, Mike and Susie have started the Mud Buddies project, which is a non-profit way of sharing the adventure of ATV-ing with folks who might otherwise never get a chance to see what this sort of adventure is all about. Folks with disabilities who cannot ride solo on a regular ATV or dirt bike.
“Back in New York, I was in the medical field and my husband was in the gas service field. We did group rides with clubs and started coming down here in 2006. Our groups are stll coming down,” Susie said. “We were not happy in our jobs back there. We are happy now and we do this as Volunteers … It was a gradual thing. We came year after year, then the last two years we started to do this and get a foundation up and running,” Susie explained.
Along the way, Mike and Susie met one of HMT’s long time key office personnel who has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome. The Rasmussen’s knew other families with handicapped children who were missing out on the fun of riding ATV and UTVs through the woods and they got an idea…..
“This lovely girl had Down’s Syndrome and we found that out during TrailFest. But now that we have such great side by sides, she can ride with us on the trails and with her family members and other groups. We had met her in 2006 and we are watching her growing up. She has a favorite helmet and a favorite jersey and she loves to get me muddy,” Susie said recently when preparing for an event with Mud Buddies, which is a non-profit project that makes free guided ATV tours into the Hatfield-McCoy Trails possible for handicapped folks and their caregivers.
“Last year, we had our first Mud Buddies ride on June first. We had moved here in May,” Susie said.
The idea for this fun and unusual project actually started out back home, Susie explained. But for a variety of reasons it was not as feasible there as here.
“It started when friends of ours in upstate New York had kids with disabilities who could not ride ..That tore us up and we noted people down here were struggling with the same issue too. We were thinking about some way to help them. We thought about getting a two seater, then the (All Terrain Vehicle) companies came up with four seater vehicles. That made it possible to have a caregiver and a driver and kids who might not otherwise get to go riding in the woods.”
“You cannot ride in New York the way you can here. You have to know people who have a lot of land. We were unable to do this kind of project up there.”
“New York did not want to listen to us, so we fell in love with WV …We fell in love with the town of Gilbert and the state and the people here. We started a foundation and got our 501-3c and did it. We got married up on the Mountain during Trail Fest.”
Mud Buddies is about sharing that same “Adventure of a Lifetime” with folks who might not otherwise get the opportunity to experience the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.
“We want to make an option for people with disabilities to come here and have fun, Susie said, while preparing for an event to show support for National Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week.
“We have a group coming down tomorrow who has one person with Autism. But that will not hold him back because we will ride together as a group, like one big family.
We are bringing people in from other state to ride and we are making rides possible for local people with disabilities, Susie said, noting a Mud Buddies ATV ride is an example of what was once called “Mainstreaming” in that it makes it possible for those with a disability to participate and enjoy just like anybody else.
“A four wheeling group is unique When people ride they can laugh and carry on and everybody is the same. Nobody is riding the special bus, everybody is riding the cool machines,“ she said. “They always love getting me muddy- that seems to be the goal of the day.”

To find out more about Mud Buddies, or to make a donation check out their homepage at
www.mudbuddiesfoundation.com

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