Go Topless Day in Tillsonburg will raise funds for Courageous Companions
Cross Country Jeepers will be going topless in Tillsonburg and area on Saturday, May 26.
"It's our third annual Topless Day event at the Norfolk Mall parking lot," said Michelle Babcock, founder of the local Cross Country Jeepers group, noting the international Go Topless Day, which started in Australia, is now in its 11th year.
The local Go Topless Day event starts at 10 a.m. and they hope to be 'on the road' as early as 11 a.m.
"Usually by 11:30-12 we hope to be on the road, depending how many Jeeps and how fast we can do the registration. We go on our drive - we try to pick a different route every year. Last year we went down to Port Burwell and got a beautiful picture near the submarine, all the Jeeps lined up. We try to find a nice location every year for pictures. We come back (to the Norfolk Mall parking lot) and have a barbecue, raffle prizes, door prizes and kids activities. Hopefully we have a big gathering."
This year funds will be raised for Courageous Companions (courageouscompanions.ca), a national volunteer-run charity that 'provides service dogs to help military veterans and first responders live full and meaningful lives if they have been impacted by physical, sensory and/or psychological injuries from their service.
"The organization takes service dogs and sets them up with anyone who suffers from PTSD, whether it be a firefighter, paramedic, doctor... anybody," said Babcock. "It kind of goes nicely with the organization that we helped last year, which was the Homeless Veterans Foundation."
The first Cross Country Jeepers Go Topless Day saw more than 100 Jeeps, but last year's event had about 30, which was expected on a rainy Topless day.
"It was downpouring that day," she laughed. "But still we had 50-60 members come out."
Members who kept their Jeep tops on last year, with a couple of 'soaked' exceptions, will be keeping an eye on the long-range forecast for the 26th, which as of Monday, is looking good - sunny with a high of 18 C and no rain.
"That would be fantastic because we would definitely have a nice crowd for sure," said Babcock, hoping to get back to the 100-Jeep range and 200-plus people.
"It's the convoy, they love the fact that we're all together. People stop and say 'Wow, there's a whole lineup of Jeeps! What's this for?' And the fact that we're fundraising - who we do it for. That's the big thing, the fundraising. Some (Go Topless Days) have the same charity/organization year after year after year. We decided we wanted a big one that was quite common to get the word out there at our first one, so we picked the Tim Hortons leadership camp. Last year was the Homeless Veterans - one of our members is a World War II veteran, so it hit really close to home for us and it really meant a lot to him. This year we picked Courageous Companions because my husband was a firefighter... it kind of hit home with a lot of us and we wanted to do something animal related.
"We're all about helping the community and surrounding members, and helping anyone who needs it. But at the same time we're about mudding and having fun - jeeping. We're a big family."
The local Cross Country Jeepers draw most of their members from London to Brantford, but they have members as far as Windsor and in the US. Jeep ownership is not mandatory to belong to the local group.
"You do not have to be a Cross Country Jeep member to participate in our Topless Day event, but it is $10 per person to register, for anybody 16-and-older. Fifteen-and-under are free."
The May 26 event is family-oriented, said Babcock, and they will have youth activities on site.
"The 6 Day Zoo (https://www.the6dayzoo.com/ 'with a wide variety of animals guaranteed to wow groups of all ages') will be there. Boston Pizza, hopefully, is going to be there with Paw Patrol for us.
"And we will have some other Jeep vendors there as well."