Richard Hammond once claimed that Land Rovers have no time for awards. “They’re too busy doing important things.”

Defender Service Awards

Land Rover North America knows what Defenders do best, and beginning last year, created the Defender Service Awards to get Defenders into the hands of organizations “busy doing important things.” For 2022, they invited non-profit service organizations to apply to win a Defender 130. Over 800 organizations and agencies from the US and Canada applied for consideration in five categories: Search and Rescue, Veterans Outreach, Animal Welfare, Community Service, and Environmental/Conservation. That number was whittled down to five organizations within each category and the selection became public through online voting. Over 220,000 supporters cast their online ballots. Four hundred attendees at the Destination Defender celebratory dinner applauded the winners and runners-up, who learned of their good fortune live that night.

JLR President Joe Eberhardt stepped up to announce the winners. Reminiscent of the NBA Draft programming, each finalist had a video link from the event to their headquarters so supporters could join in the excitement. I sat at a table of media and public relations professionals who would otherwise claim we’d seen it all. Canadian journalist Max Landi said, “I was overwhelmed with emotion, hearing the stories of how the non-profits were going to use their newly awarded Defender 130s for good.” Given the joyful reaction of the winner’s representatives, there were no dry eyes at our table.

Each winner’s representative spoke movingly about the impact of their new Defender 130.

Defender Service Awards

Search and Rescue

Sauvetage Benevole Outaouais/Ottawa Volunteer Search and Rescue, Ottawa, ON

Lynn Dupuis’ volunteer organization provides services 24/7, 365 days a year. She noted that the Defender 130 will enable her teams to reach their rescue area faster and safer. “This win gives us something to get excited about, besides hearing our phones go off at 2:00 am.”

Animal Welfare

Defender Service Awards

Appalachian Bear Rescue, Townsend, TN

An organization that rescues orphaned bear cubs in the Great Smokey Mountains had been without an off-road capable vehicle until their win at Destination Defender, said Dana Dodd. “We know the Defender will get us anywhere we need to go for a rescue,” she told me. “Its huge cargo area will give us the space we need for the cubs and the toys they need to have to keep them occupied.”

Veterans Outreach

Defender Service Awards

Patriot Service Dogs, Marion County, FL

Julie Sanderson’s organization provides training and placement of service dogs. She told me that a prior family obligation prevented her from attending, so veteran Yacov Margolese and his dog, Tucker, spoke powerfully about the impact of this win. “The need for service dogs is extreme,” he said, as Tucker leaned in to give him support as he struggled to find the sentences to say, “Thanks.”

Community Service

Mercy Chefs, Portsmouth, VA

This faith-based organization prepares and packages meals in response to disasters worldwide. Luke Borchelt [Strategic Relationship Manager] expressed his excitement at the award dinner, noting the Defender will enable the organization to improve delivery services to disaster areas.


Green Lake Association, Green Lake, WI

Defender Service Awards

This volunteer group works to protect, improve and restore the Green Lake watershed, which involves locating, monitoring, and maintaining the water quality of this remote region situated west of Oshkosh and southwest of Green Bay, WI. Taylor Haag represented the organization and told me, “I’m still in shock at winning the Defender. We’ll be having the Defender outfitted to carry our kayaks, tow our boat and carry all our volunteers and gear. It will give us easier access to the watershed.”

Not only did each organization get to kit out its Defender as needed – Land Rover sent each winner to the Land Rover Experience Biltmore in February to receive off-road instruction and actually see their vehicles. Warren Blevins of the LRE team said, “I had the honor again of helping with the winners; it was such a humbling experience to be a part of. I’m really happy that JLR is helping contribute to the various organizations.”

Going above and beyond, Land Rover collaborated with additional sponsors Chase Bank, Outside, dentsu x, Pelican, KONG, and ei3 to give a $25,000 donation to each winner. Runners-up each received a $10,000 donation from Land Rover. Collectively, $125,000 in prize money went to the winners and runners-up.

Max Landi spoke for everyone when he said, “I deeply hope Land Rover will make the Defender Service Awards a regular event so those that are volunteering with or running these non-profits can be recognized for their achievements.”