DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — While an off-road adventure brings out big smiles, it’s the personal connections that last the longest for both participants and volunteers with the annual Wheelers for the Wounded event held at Hidden Falls Adventure Park.
“This past Christmas, I was at an event at Fort Hood for some of the soldiers, and this soldier, he walks up to me and says, ‘I know you. You’re the lady from the jeeper event,’” said Jean Eades, a longtime volunteer at the the event. Eades quickly struck up a conversation with the soldier as if they were longtime friends. “You get those relationships after you see some of these folks year after year. It’s just such a wonderful event.”
The seventh annual Wheelers for the Wounded event is May 2 at the park, 7030 RR 1431 about seven miles east of Marble Falls.
“We’ll have service members from Fort Hood, (Brook Army Medical Center), Fort Sam Houston and the Air Force base there in San Antonio,” said John Collins, one of the coordinators. “We’ll have a really good crowd.”
The event — which brings injured soldiers and service members as well as their families — features a day of off-roading thanks to the countless number of volunteers and off-road enthusiasts.
“We have jeepers come from across Texas and across the United States for this,” Eades said.
Collins said with 500-600 service members, they also get 300-400 off-road vehicles and their owners.
The event brings off-road enthusiasts together with the wounded service members. The four-wheelers provide a day of off-road riding at no costs to the service members and their families.
One of the keys is this is a family event.
“When I was talking with that soldier at Christmas, he said they get invited to all sorts of things, but this was the only one that included their families,” Eades said. “That just means so much to them. It’s like a family vacation.
Eades went on to say that, during the first event at Hidden Falls Adventure Park, a soldier approached her and several other volunteers. The soldier explained that she was getting ready to deploy again to Iraq in a few weeks and would have to leave her two children behind for several months.
“She couldn’t afford to take them on a vacation, so this was like a vacation for them,” Eades said. “It was just so important to her to have that time with her children.”
Along with the chance to go four-wheeling and rock crawling, organizers plan a host of other activities, fun and food for the service members and their families.
Collins said the buses with the service members and families begin arriving about 10:30 a.m. with the opening ceremony following at 11 a.m. as they all get ready to hit the trails. While the event is reserved for the service members, the public is welcome to stand at the Hidden Falls Adventure Park entrance and greet them.
People interested in supporting Wheelers for the Wounded can go to wftwtx.org for more information. You may call Hidden Falls Adventure Park at (830) 798-9820 for more information regarding the May 2 event.
“When you see these smiles on the soldiers’ faces and their families, you know you’ve done something good,” Eades added.