Two British Columbia service organizations are celebrating after winning brand new Land Rover Defenders and a hefty cash prize this weekend.
Squamish Search and Rescue and Honour House were declared winners in the Land Rover 2023 Defender Service Awards, a competition that awards customized Defender 130 vehicles along with US$25,000 to six charities in different categories.
The winners were announced in Summerville Texas on Saturday.
“The team was very excited. We were all meeting at the compound to watch the livestream and a big cheer went up when we won,” Squamish Search and Rescue search manager Nils Robinson said.
The competition was vote-based, meaning each team had to rally supporters in the community to back their preferred organization.
The Squamish team edged out competing finalist Texas-based team TEXSAR in the Search and Rescue category.
Robinson said the team couldn’t have won without the “incredible” support from people in Squamish, the Lower Mainland and search and rescue teams across the country that rallied to promote the team.
“This is huge for us. Squamish, as you know, is a small town surrounded by a large amount of wilderness and a lot of people are pushing further and further out,” he said.
“Having the Land Rover and its capabilities means we can actually respond to remote areas we otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to except by helicopter, and helicopters are not always guaranteed.”
Honour House president Allan De Genova attended the ceremony in Texas, and told Global News Morning BC the moment the group’s win was announced was “magical.”
The New Westminster charity provides a place for Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, emergency service workers and their families while receiving medical treatment, but will use the vehicle for its latest project in Ashcroft, B.C., Honour Ranch.
The ranch serves veterans and first responders undergoing treatment for operational stress injuries like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
De Genova said the vehicle will replace the ranch’s “poor old Chevy with hundreds of thousands of kilometres” on the odometer.
“It’s a pretty amazing machine I have to say,” he said.
“It’s going to do everything we need to help move people around, but also to get into the backroads and fight our fires.”
The cash prize money will also help the group in its drive to raise a million dollars to build another 10 cottages at the ranch.
Honour Ranch won in the Veteran & Civil Servant Outreach category, and De Genova said it was bitter-sweet to win over other groups in the same category — all of whom also do critical work in their communities.
“I felt somewhat saddened, because I know how important it was, how hard they worked,” he said.
Robinson said the Squamish team expect to take delivery of the vehicle next spring, after it has been wrapped with decals and kitted out with equipment.
Along with the two B.C. teams, Winnipeg-based Manitoba Underdogs Rescue also won a vehicle, capturing the prize in the Animal, Wildlife & Marine Welfare Award category.
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