Land Rover announced the winners of the third annual Defender Service Awards, the yearly giveaway of Defenders to worthy non-profit causes who can use the vehicles to advance their good work across the United States and Canada. This year, six Defender 130s found new homes, and for the first time the contest winners were evenly split between American and Canadian winners.
The winners were announced at a banquet at Destination Defender, Land Rover’s official celebration of all things Defender. The vehicles will find their way to their new homes in early 2024, and if it’s like in prior years, there will be a gathering at one of Land Rover’s Experience centers beforehand for all the winners to try out their new tools and learn some basics of off-road driving.
Each of the winners gets a generous prize package, including the Defender 130 itself and cash prizes from various sponsors. The winners each received a $25,000 donation from Chase, alongside the vehicle. Each of the 30 category finalists received $7,500 from sponsors ($5,000 from Chase and $2,500 from Warner Bros. Discovery). The second-place finalists were also in attendance, and Land Rover is matching the $7,500 donation for these organizations. In total, all these donations from all these sponsors added up to $395,000 in prize money, plus around half a million dollars worth of Defenders.
The six winners are:
Manitoba Underdogs Rescue (Winnipeg, MB): Animal, Wildlife and Marine Mammal Welfare Award
Manitoba Underdogs Rescue primarily services northern Manitoba communities, rescuing, rehabilitating, and caring for unwanted animals. The organization provides spay and neuter clinics, rescues year round (even in the cold cold Manitoban winter), and medical care and homing services for abandoned animals. The Defender 130 will serve them well on cold winter journeys on the snow-covered roads to Thompson and Flin Flon to rescue animals.
Honour House Society (New Westminster, BC): Veterans and Civil Servant Outreach Award
Honour House and Honour Ranch provide services for veterans of the Canadian Forces dealing with the challenges of reintegrating into civilian society, and the scars of war. Their Honour House retreat is in New Westminster, just east of Vancouver. They also run the 120-acre Honour Ranch in Ashcroft, BC, a beautiful railroad junction town nestled in the banks of the Thompson River. There, they have ten cabins (soon to expand) where veterans can go to decompress. The ranch is two kilometers from the pavement, and the Defender will replace a worn-out Chevy pickup to serve as the lifeline for the ranch. It will also help with firefighting efforts when wildfires sweep across the BC Interior in summer, potentially saving the ranch from destruction.
Squamish Search and Rescue Society (Squamish, BC): Search, Rescue and Emergency Services Award
Located at the head of British Columbia’s Howe Sound, along the iconic Sea to Sky Highway, Squamish is one of the most popular outdoors destinations in the province. Squamish SAR, a 100% volunteer-run organization, provides ground- and water-based rescue services in the area. With an 80-member team, they perform over 6,400 task hours a year, one of the busiest SAR organizations in Canada. The need for a Defender pretty much speaks for itself here – this rugged land, criss-crossed with forest service roads and trails, is the use case of use cases for a search and rescue Land Rover.
Youth Sports Alliance (Park City, UT): Outdoor Accessibility and Education Award
The Youth Sports Alliance (YSA) is part of the legacy program from the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. They run after-school activities to get kids into sports and physical activity, working to pry them from a life of staring at screens. They provide everything from lift tickets to transportation to get kids involved in all sorts of physical activities, no matter their economic situation. A large portion of their budget is spent every year renting vehicles to move kids around, and the Defender 130 will divert $12,000 toward scholarships and away from rentals, transporting 1,500 students a year to programs. Park City is up in the Wasatch Range, above Salt Lake City, and the Defender would again provide the confidence in winter to get kids to winter programs. The trailer hitch will also allow them to haul a trailer of bikes on mountain bike adventures, allowing them to expand that program – keeping in mind that many rental vehicles do not have hitches.
Charleston Animal Society (Charleston, SC): Defender Service Awards Honoree Awards
The Defender Service Awards Honoree Awards category was designed for runners-up from the 2021 and 2022 competitions to have a second chance at a vehicle. The Charleston Animal Society (CAS) first tried in 2022 but lost out to Appalachian Bear Rescue in Tennessee. This year, they took home the prize on a second try.
The CAS has served the animals of the Holy City for 149 years. They created the first no-kill community in the southeast and worked to turn South Carolina into the first no-kill state in the entire southern United States. They also work in evacuating area shelters in the hurricanes that hit the area every few years and assist law enforcement with preventing animal cruelty across South Carolina. (In one recent case, they worked to evacuate a puppy mill with 166 dogs held in inhumane conditions.) These situations can be in remote locations, and the Defender 130’s combination of space and capability will allow it to run shuttles from these remote cruelty locations to a safe place to transfer animals into vans to bring them to CAS’ facilities.
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