Trudging Through the Mud for Disabled American Veterans [Video]

Jeep Jam is an event that people talk about for weeks—before and after.

In fact, it seems like most people leave the fall event wanting to become the new owner of a Jeep. The festivities take place yearly in October at O’Daniel Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Southwest Fort Wayne, Indiana. The day-long celebration includes live music, a silent auction, a mud-run, a parade of Jeeps and many more fun and family-friendly activities.

Before there was the Jeep Jam, well, there was nothing quite as cool in the area.

The Wayback History

There have been five previous Jeep Jam events. “Chrysler introduced the new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee and they wanted to do what they called a ‘Premiere Night,’ where they introduced the new Grand Cherokee in a grand style,” O’Daniel West General Manager Greg O’Daniel said. While most dealerships had parties with appetizers and meet and greets, O’Daniel West took the party to the next level.

“We created a miniature Camp Jeep,” he said. “We had muddy jeeps and we sat back and said ‘wow.’ We had a bonfire where people were cooking hot dogs. People really had fun and said we need to make this an annual event.”

The first annual Jeep Jam took place in 2005 and has gotten better ever since. Back then, it wasn’t a benefit day, but more of a fun day for Jeep owners to show off their wheels.

“In the first year, we had great success and wanted to build upon that,” O’Daniel said. “Everything was just a celebration of Jeeps. It became a festival.” The second through fourth years, the dealership continued to add more and more activities to the lineup. “Jeep Jam two is when we started our infamous ride through the O’Daniel ditch,” he said. But Jeep Jam four started something big. That year kicked off the off-roading excitement.

Off-roading Adventure

“There aren’t any other car dealers doing anything like this,” O’Daniel said. Participants of the Jeep Jam also get to go test out their vehicles at a Jeep Farm, owned by Tom and Pam Kessie, near ColumbiaCity. Experienced off-roaders and newbies alike can hit the trails in a controlled environment, O’Daniel said.

Benefitting the DAV

In 2008, another notice from Chrysler started the benefit concept for the Jeep Jam. The company had a contest to collect cell phones that would be recycled.

“Whatever dealer in the area collected the most cell phones received $5,000 to donate to a charity of their choice,” O’Daniel said. “We collected cell phones for two to three months. We not only collected the most in our area, we collected the most in the country.”

The dealership won the $5,000 charity donation and chose The Disabled American Veterans of Allen County. “From that moment forward, that has become our charity of choice for the Jeep Jam,” the general manager said.

Silent auctions were added, along with raffle tickets and food sales. The money raised began to increase, year after year.

2011 Totals

At this year’s Jeep Jam, the dealership raised more than $17,000. The proceeds are shared with The Disabled American Veterans of Whitley County as well, since that is where the off-roading mud-run is held.

The money is used for things like maintaining vehicles that are used to shuttle veterans back and forth to the hospitals, O’Daniel said. It is also used for individual, case-by-case of veteran needs.

Jeep Jam Highlights

O’Daniel said the event provides “a meet up,” for Jeep enthusiasts. “People will tend to put their lawn chairs in front of their Jeep and wait for people to come by and say, ‘hey, you wanna see my Jeep?’ They’re proud of what they have.”

He said that the event also gives Jeep owners the opportunity to “test their vehicle in the elements it was designed for.” With the off-roading aspect, Jeep owners may not know where to go to off-road, but with the event, they get the opportunity to be exposed to it and even participate.

Future Years

The O’Daniel Jeep Jam is an event that will continue for years ahead. Customers and employees alike look forward to the festivities year after year. “I’m looking forward to next year. We’ll do some expanding and it will be bigger and better,” Craig Ruskaup, Chrysler Jeep Sales Manager said.

To learn more  and find out how you can help the Disabled Veterans of America, please visit their website.

To see more information about the event, visit the 2011 ODZ Jeep Jam website.


Photos by Tony Frantz