LOGAN — The fall weather and the mountains sporting their colors contributed to the success of the first-ever all terrain vehicle (ATV) Charity Poker Run held on Hatfield McCoy’s Bear Wallow Trail. The ride, dubbed Thunder in the Mountains, raised $2,815 for the Mud Buddies Foundation and was sponsored by Logan Motorcycle, 119 Powersports and Keefer’s of Logan.
Thunder in the Mountains was a day for the children. Benjamin Dillon and Paige Hicks, two special needs children, were along for the ride. They were all smiles and making memories for a lifetime.
“Even if it was only for one day, they were just like anyone else. They rode in the same kind of vehicle, wore the same equipment, and had the same experience,” said Mike Rassmussen, founder of Mud Buddies.
According to Logan Police Department Chief E. K. Harper, 278 people registered for the two-hour trail ride. Participants included riders from several states and a few from Canada. Some riders were already here to ride the trails and decided to join in when they heard about the ride and its cause.
Hatfield McCoy Trails, Logan County Schools, The City of Logan police and fire departments, and sponsor staff members worked tirelessly throughout the day. Volunteers made 225 sack lunches for participants, then had to make another 100 because of the overwhelming response to the event. Music was provided by the Easy Street Band at the end of the ride and the bravest of the riders showed off their dance moves.
The Mud Buddies Foundation is a non-profit organization located in the Gilbert Town Hall. It provides safe, no cost guided ATV rides and trips for children affected by physical or developmental disabilities. The rides are customized with each child’s interests and abilities in mind.
The Hatfield McCoy Trails donate admission to the trails, and a grant received from Polaris purchased a two-seat vehicle for the foundation to use in addition to their four-seat vehicle. Many volunteers watch the facebook page to see when trips are scheduled and come along to help with the rides. The Rasmussens say the more the merrier when it comes to riders on the trips.
Mike and Susie Rassmussen moved from New York to Gilbert specifically to establish the foundation. They fell in love with this area, the feeling of community, kindness and love of their ATV “family.” Both say their mission when they came here was to enrich the lives of special needs children by providing them with a safe, outdoor experience in the mountains.
“You know your path when God puts it in front of you and we love what we do. The kids are such a blessing and make you feel so good,” said Susie, “That’s what it is all about, the kids.”
The foundation had 64 rides in 2011 and 84 this year. Some of the rides included groups of up to 18 and riders range in age from five to 53. They have taken riders with a wide range of physical challenges, Downs Syndrome, autism and one rider who was blind.
“We were riding along when the young man who was blind said he would love to drive,” said Mike, “I asked him if he could follow instructions and he said yes. I found a safe spot and let him drive a little from the right side. He was so excited and his friends couldn’t believe he was blind and actually got to drive.”
Susie says they all enjoy getting her dirty, having Mike pass her or hide from her on the trails. They play these and other games along the trail and the children laugh with delight and beg for more.
“One child laughed and smiled so much, his teeth were dirty at the end of the ride,” laughed Susie.
Mike Ratz says next year’s Thunder in the Mountains is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20. For more information as it becomes available, visit the Mud Buddies Facebook page, trailsheaven.com or loganmotorcyclesales.net.
Thunder in the Mountains was the last trip scheduled for 2012. The winter months will be spent planning for 2013 and visiting schools and other organizations to share information about Mud Buddies.
For more information visit the Mud Buddies Foundation Facebook page or call 304-583-6511. Donations can be mailed to Mud Buddies at P.O. Box 133, Gilbert, WV, 25621.