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4WD Volunteers Host Ride for Developmentally Disabled
This was a very special day. Once a year, four-wheel drive volunteers, many from local clubs and some individuals, gather at the off-highway vehicle staging area near the Niagara Rim Trail east of Sonora to participate in the annual "Kids on the Rocks" event.
Kathy Avery, a member of the Sonora-based Mud, Sweat & Gears four-wheel drive club and one of the original founders of the event, explained why Kids on the Rocks is so important to the four-wheel drive community. "Many years ago, several of our club members became involved with this event believing it would have an impact on saving one of our favorite trails," said Avery. "The truth is, we didn't save the trail, but over the years we have all grown and gained from the tremendous experiences we have shared with developmentally disabled guests from throughout this area, and in earlier years, we had many guests from the Modesto area."
This year, the special guests were from the HI-GEAR Watch Resources Program. HI-GEAR stands for "Handicapped Involved in Games, Entertainment, Arts and Recreation."
"Members of Watch are involved in many programs throughout the year to increase their self-esteem, sportsmanship and pride for each other," said Tim Kreger, coordinator of the HI-GEAR Program, "but this particular four wheel drive trip, because of our wonderful volunteers, has become one of their favorite events."
The bus was a few minutes late, but nobody cared. One by one, the guests filed off the bus. Initially, many of them seemed very apprehensive. The volunteers, quick to spot their shyness, walked over and asked if they would like to ride in their rig. Within minutes, the Watch guests were shouting to each other that they were riding in the best Jeep.
In addition to the Mud, Sweat & Gears club, other clubs helping out included 4x4 in Motion, Ready to Run four-wheel drive club and the Hi-Rock Trekkers.
The column of vehicles started up the trail, and it wasn't long before a few of the guests were talking to each other on the Citizen's Band (CB) radio. One young lady was yelling at her friend in the Jeep behind her, "just wait until you see Smokey Bear. I met him last year and now he is one of my best friends."
The rigs climbed up the hills and down through the valleys and finally, it was time for lunch. Suddenly, everybody stopped eating and began running to the center of the campsite. Smokey Bear had arrived, as promised, and he didn't disappoint anyone. He signed autographs, had his picture taken with just about every special guest and finally and sadly, he had to say goodbye.
Kathy Avery said that she and her late husband, Ken Correia and another Mud, Sweat & Gears member, Jack Lyon, who is also deceased, started the Kids on the Rocks program; however, now remarried to Dave Avery, the two of them have plans to make the event bigger and better.
"We thoroughly enjoy our four-wheeling experiences," said Kathy Avery, "but events like Kids on the Rocks, our participation in local parades, and our work with kids in local foster homes affords us the opportunity to give something back to the community. Most of these people would not have the opportunity to travel into the back country without our assistance, and we all love being a part of it."
--Jack Raudy is a regular contributing writer for the BlueRibbon Magazine, and is the executive director for the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. For questions or comments on this article or related issues, he may be contacted at 8120 36th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95824-2304. Phone: 916-381-8300.