Gathering Place volunteers host Father’s Day convertible rides

THE GATHERING PLACE in Sheboygan Falls recently held a special Father’s Day convertible ride for the nine men in its early memory loss day program. - Submitted photo THE GATHERING PLACE in Sheboygan Falls recently held a special Father’s Day convertible ride for the nine men in its early memory loss day program. - Submitted photo This year marked the fifth year of the annual convertible ride to honor Father’s Day at The Gathering Place in Sheboygan Falls.

The ride began in 2012. After a Mother’s day outing where the ladies in The Gathering Place early memory loss program had a visit to a local salon, there was a quandary about what to do for the men for Father’s Day.

The answer came from one of the Gathering Place’s volunteers, whose family possesses four convertibles.

The thought was to add a few more convertibles and take the nine men in The Gathering Place program on a nice long ride with the tops down.

There was some difficulty adding the five additional cars, but by chance, the volunteer happened to get in contact with Dick Strong, the manager of Chuck Van Horn Dodge.

Before finishing the explanation of the idea, Strong willingly said, “I want to make that happen. Do you need cars? I can get you cars.”

The Van Horn Auto Group came through with four cars in that first year.

The ride is an exploration of the back roads of primarily Sheboygan County.

Over the years the rides have included the marsh area, Elkhart Lake, Glenbeulah, Hingham, Cascade, Dundee, Plymouth, the Lake Michigan lakefront, county road LS, Gibbsville, Black River, Howards Grove, Oostburg, Batavia and Beachwood.

The ride has now expanded to 17 privately-owned cars. The cars are for the most part driven by their owners, who volunteer their time as well.

This year in addition to five cars from the original family, there were five men from the Hingham area who committed to assisting with the event, along with members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Sheboygan Falls and teachers from Plymouth.

“It is truly amazing how giving and caring these men are when dealing with individuals with early memory loss,” The Gathering Place and Memory Matters Program Director Leah Zehel said.

There are typically several stops on the ride, including a stop at a local pub or tavern for a beverage break.

The ride culminates with a steak sandwich picnic again prepared by volunteers.

It is noteworthy that it took approximately 25 volunteers to make the 13-participant ride a success this year.

“This ride is so meaningful to our participants,” Zehel said. “They are often able to recall many memories on this trip, whether they are reminiscing about their own car they used to drive, or recalling something they enjoyed along the way.

“The volunteers that donate their time year after year to make this happen, not only donate their nice vehicles, and their time, but they give their hearts, showing compassion and friendship to the participant dealing with Alzheimer’s,” she said. “For this short time it is like they are free from this disease and are able to feel carefree and young again. We are so blessed to have our annual convertible ride at The Gathering Place, as it is so much more than just a car ride.”

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