The Honour House Society was the winner in its category at the recent Defender Service Awards, meaning that as of spring 2024 a brand new, custom-equipped Land Rover Defender 130 will be on duty at the Honour Ranch near Ashcroft.
Al De Genova, founder and president of the Honour House Society, was in Texas on Nov. 11 for the announcement, and says that he cried when the announcement was made.
“It was unbelievable. I really thought that the U.S. contingent would take it, and I felt bad for the other guys, because they’re so deserving too, but we ran a campaign that was second to none.”
The Defender Service Awards, presented by CHASE, recognize organizations across the U.S. and Canada that exemplify the Defender ethos of helping serve their communities. De Genova says he heard about the awards three months ago, when he received an email from a retired captain out of the 15th Field Artillery.
“He had learned that Land Rover North America has service awards in different categories, and he said ‘You guys are perfect and I know you have a good chance.’ We had eight days before the cut-off to create a three-minute video submission, so I called people and said we needed to meet at the ranch in two days.”
The society submitted the video, which showed why they needed the Land Rover. They got a call three weeks later saying that out of 515 entries across North America, Honour House Society had been chosen as one of the top five finalists in the “Veterans and Civil Servant Outreach” category, presented by Hearts and Science.
“We then had to drive support in our community, and had six or seven weeks from that time until mid-October for people to vote for us,” says De Genova, who is full of praise for the way in which people in the community got behind the campaign and voted.
“It was a real grass roots campaign that helped put us over the top. I know many people in Spences Bridge, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek were voting every day. I was at the Packing House in Spences Bridge and there was a group of about 20 women there for a birthday, and they were all telling me that they were voting. The Tour of Honour this past summer helped too, because people got to know us. I thought if that’s the kind of reach we have, then we have an amazing network getting the word out.”
When voting concluded, Honour House Society was in the top two in its category. De Genova says that there were around 300 people at the awards banquet, where a clip from the Honour Ranch video was shown.
“We were the third category announced, and someone said ‘We would like to award the Land Rover Defender 130, along with US$25,000, to — pause — Honour House Society. I was crying.”
The US$25,000 is from Hearts & Science, the category’s sponsor. Honour House Society also received US$5,000 from CHASE and US$2,5000 from Warner Bros. Discovery.
The Land Rover Defender 130 is the star, however, and will be well-used at Honour Ranch. De Genova explains that the society will send specs so that it can be customized for the ranch’s use, and for the terrain and weather in which it will be operating.
“It will be designed for everything we need. If we have spot fires we can use it to get into areas we otherwise can’t access, and it can pull up to 3,000 gallons of water, and will have a pump and hose so we can use the creek. It will have skid plates on the undercarriage, extra lights front and back, brush bars to protect it, a winch, and off-road capability; it can climb up very steep grades. It’s the newest and most technological vehicle for remote areas, and its capacity makes it something everyone would like to have; we just didn’t have US$160,000 lying around.”
De Genova praises the RCMP officers, paramedics, and firefighters who got behind the campaign, and singles out Ashcroft Fire Chief Josh White, who helped with the creation of the video that the society submitted.
“The Defender will be available for Ashcroft Fire Rescue if they need it for somewhere the fire trucks can’t get to. Josh has the keys to the gate at the ranch, and the Defender will be available to pull for use, so the village benefits from another piece of equipment. Our stuff is your stuff.”
Training will be offered on the new vehicle when it’s ready early in the New Year, and De Genova says they expect to take delivery at Honour Ranch in late March or April 2024. In the meantime, he’s still over the moon about the experience and the win.
“It was vibrant, it was wonderful, and we won. And even if we hadn’t won, we built recognition and awareness of Honour House Society and the ranch. Lots of people in North America know about Ashcroft, B.C. now. We’re on the map.
“I thought we didn’t have a hope in Hell, but we kept pushing.”