Power 50 No.1 dealer supports local Mud Buddies group with poker run, fundraising
When Mike Ratz, president of Logan Powersports, sets his mind to something, he does it. So when he heard about the Mud Buddies Foundation, Ratz knew that his dealership had to help give back in any way it could.
For the past four years, Logan Powersports in Logan, W.Va., has held an annual Mud Buddies Poker Run to raise money and awareness for the Mud Buddies foundation. Denny Frost, sales manager at Logan, the 2015 Powersports Business Power 50 No. 1 dealership, remembers 300 people showing up to the first annual Mud Buddies Poker Run. “Then it tapered off, but we’re getting around 200 to 250 people now, both drivers and passengers,” Ratz said.
The annual event drew nearly 100 vehicles earlier this year, with a lot of repeat participants. “We’ve got two of the Kawasaki rider clubs that we have here who show up, and we’re constantly getting more new people to show up when they bring friends,” said Ratz.
The fundraiser includes T-shirts with the dealership’s logo, a 50/50 drawing and door prizes donated from Western Power Sports and Tucker Rocky Distributing. Last year, the dealership gave away door prizes to everyone who attended.
“Each rider gets a ticket when they register and then we put it in a drawing, and we draw tickets out from there,” Frost said. “They get their ticket, lunch, T-shirt, and a 1-day trail pass on the Hatfield McCoy Trail system.”
The cost for each rider on the poker run is $15, and $5 dollars for each additional rider/passenger. “We include everything the rider gets for his $15, and that entire $15 goes to the Mud Buddies Foundation,” added Ratz.
During the drawing, some of the Mud Buddies participants were there to draw the names.
“They were so happy to draw the names,” Ratz said. “It just touches your heart when you see that. I met a little girl when we were getting ready to do a door prize, and it was like we’d been buddies all our lives.”
Many members of the Logan Powersports staff have been able to participate in the poker run as well. “We have 20-25 employees that are there either riding along or working the event. We have mechanics in case something needs to be fixed, salespeople and office people to pass out food and help out,” Ratz said.
Mud Buddies is a non-profit foundation now entering its fifth year. It provides guided side-by-side rides on organized trail systems, such as the Hatfield McCoy Trails. Each of the rides is customized to each buddy’s likes, interests and limitations. Some participants tire easily, while others love to ride as long as possible, and the ride is adjusted accordingly.
The Mud Buddies Foundation’s mission is to “enrich the lives of children affected by disabilities by providing an outdoor, safe, ATV/side-by-side experience in the great outdoors.” Susie and Mike Rasmussen began the non-profit organization after visiting the annual Trailfest event at the Hatfield McCoy Trails.
“Mike and Susie have been coming here for years, and they decided to move here from New York. They packed up, left their jobs out there, came down here and started the Mud Buddies Foundation totally on their own,” Ratz said. “They started from scratch with what money they had. It is a passion for them, and they wanted to do it.”
Mike and Susie both work in the nearby town of Gilbert, W.Va., where they have the flexibility to lead rides throughout the month.
While Logan Powersports’ poker run is annual, rides through the Mud Buddies Foundation are available upon request. The foundation takes riders off all ages, with the youngest buddy to date being 5 years old and the oldest being 53 years old. Each rider is outfitted in appropriate side-by-side gear including helmets, goggles and gloves, all donated by Mud Buddies’ sponsors. “It’s 365 days a year on their part. The rides can be daily, anytime they have a request,” said Ratz.
Frost says that the Mud Buddies ride is used as an incentive for a local group home as a reward for good behavior.
“If they’re following their instructors and doing well, then they use that as a reward, and it seems to be working well,” Frost said. “They get a lot of referrals from special education teachers on the children and by word of mouth.”
Mud Buddies has also been able to connect with Special Olympics out of Charleston, W.Va., Frost said. In the past, Mud Buddies has been featured as part of a segment on the Hatfield McCoy Trails by Dirt Trax Television, and this winter, the foundation will be featured in its own half an hour show on television with Fisher’s ATV.
Both Ratz and Frost have been able to participate in the Mud Buddies rides, and the experience has left a lasting impression.
“There’s just such a personal satisfaction you get out of it,” said Ratz. “Sometimes the kids they take out don’t say or do much at first, but then you’re in the vehicle riding, and they talk all day; they talk all evening. It’s amazing how excited they get to be able to go out all day and ride like that.”
The Mud Buddies Foundation gets a lot of help from local supporters and donations, including a list that keeps growing with each year. Several lodges have stepped forward to help cover rooms for riders and their families who travel from outside of state, and multiple fundraisers are thrown each year to continue support of the program.
From the OEM side, Polaris donated a RZR 570 for use, and the group hopes to expand its lineup in the future.
“A lot of times it takes three or four four-seat units to get everybody out and in a ride. So sometimes the foundation is borrowing a unit from Hatfield McCoy Trails, or from Logan, so they have enough units to take everybody out in,” Ratz added.
While local support has been fantastic, the group hopes to make a national footprint to raise awareness for those who wish to attend a ride from out of state. “The foundation’s supporters have been really great. The local community has done a lot for them as well,” Ratz said. “We want to help this foundation keep going. To me, Mud Buddies is a community event — something for the community and for the people to go riding. It’s about having good, clean fun,” Ratz said.