By Ron Barry
Kim and Jerry Morris may like to go off-road, but they prefer doing it with an on-target purpose.
Founders of 45 South OffRoad four years ago, headquartered in nearby Finger, Tennessee, the Morrises launched a group of people who just “wanted to ride.” They began with just seven members. Not long thereafter, there were a few hundred. And now, the “club” boasts more than 2,500 members from six different states.
What sets them apart from other off-road groups is their desire not only to provide a family fun atmosphere for their riders, but to help local citizens and communities economically in the process.
Sometimes, such as this past Saturday in Crockett County, the purpose is just to get together to enjoy nature and have some family fun. So more than 100 riders gathered near Alamo to take a ride through the Tennessee Safari Park. After that, they all cruised over to The Front Porch restaurant near Bells for a late lunch.
It wasn’t a concentrated fund-raising event like some of their rides, but here’s the thing: When more than 100 vehicles with drivers and passengers show up to enjoy an attraction and then have a meal, the local economy reels in the monetary benefits.
“This ride (through Crockett County) was a non-fundraising event,” Kim said. “This was a family fun day. Jerry and I were given an opportunity to bring a group of people together and we have all become family. It brings smiles to other people, but also gives each member a chance to escape all the pressures and stress in the world and just for a little while, get off-road and relax.”
Many of the group’s rides, however, are specifically targeted fundraisers, and have been done for a variety of reasons and have helped a variety of people.
For instance, one of the first things they did in 2018 was to organize a “Poker Run” to help a lady in Medina who was battling breast cancer. A poker run is a “pay by the spot” event in which a route is selected with five designated stops along the way. Drivers pay $20 and playing passengers pay $10. At each stop, the players draw a card, and at the end of the ride, each has a full poker hand. The high hand is the winner and gets a portion of the total pot. At the end of the run, they add in raffles and auction items and usually even sell food, all designed to raise additional money.
“Our first poker run for the lady in Medina raised $830, and we all cried when we handed the money to her,” Kim said. “Later that month we did our ‘1st Annual Haunted Cemetery Poker Run’ to help a man battling colon cancer. We raised $1,210 and we cried again when we gave it to him.”
Kim said along the way, opportunities to help others “seemed to find us” and “helping others became contagious.” In the spring of 2019, they organized the “1st Annual Dry Creek Clean-Up Day” in which they went in and cleaned a heavily-littered stretch of road along the Tennessee River, something they have continued to do each year.
“Last year we removed 3,450 pounds of trash in one day!” Kim said.
The breast cancer ride has become an annual event. After helping the Medina woman in the first year, the group helped a Selmer woman in the second year, a lady from Walnut, Mississippi in year three, and in October of 2021, raised $16,000 for Whitney Hays, a young mother who found out she had cancer just four days after she learned she was pregnant.
“We do what we do because there is a need and we can help,” Kim said. “We are so blessed that God allows us to use something we love to do to help others. This is our mission field. Jerry and I hope that people can see God’s light shining through each of us. We are a church without walls. But more importantly, we are a family.”
The Morrises try to be strategic with the scheduling of their outings.
“Not every event we do is fundraising,” Kim said. “Some events are just to give the group motivation and momentum to help when the proper time comes. If every event event is about money, the group could lose focus. Sometimes we just want to give the members a much-needed break for their minds and bodies.”
But when it is time for a fundraiser, this group has a history of doing it well.
The “Haunted Cemetery Poker Run,” in addition to helping the initial colon cancer patient, has also aided an on-duty policeman from Selmer who was hit by a drug-affected driver; provided money to a college fund for the daughter of a Savannah deputy who was shot and killed while on a domestic violence call; and several families who suffered storm damage to their homes in the McNairy County area.
45 South OffRoad also does an annual “First Responders Appreciation Ride,” close to the September 11 date each year, in which it delivers food, drinks, and treats to EMS, Fire, and Police stations. In September 2021, the group divided into four teams and covered over 50 stations in three different states.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has done numerous children’s birthday “drive-bys,” a celebration for a five-year-old who beat cancer and came home from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and – unfortunately – has even escorted four funeral processions.
They support the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, doing toy drives and a recent off-road show to raise awareness. They helped clean up tornado debris near Samburg, as well as collected toys for kids, gifts for parents, and even assisted a local church in hosting a Christmas dinner to provide gifts for families that had lost everything in the storms. They’ve even done “scavenger hunt” rides for fun.
45 South OffRoad has a Facebook page for anyone interested in getting involved, but they want serious inquiries only. The group is highly respectful of the members it serves, the places they visit, and the intentions of their rides.
They’re off-road, but they’re right on-target.
Group Rules for 45 South Offroad
- Show Respect to Everyone!
This includes members and their rigs regardless if custom or stock and also to other clubs. This is not a competition. Many of us are in multiple clubs and we will not tolerate disrespect to anyone.
- Be Kind and Courteous
We’re all in this together to create a welcoming environment. Let’s treat everyone with respect. Healthy debates are natural, but kindness is required.
- Remember You Represent 45 South, So Act Accordingly
Your actions speak louder than words and even louder with club logos people can see. We do not want the club to look bad in the public’s eye. Our hope is to do good in the community.
- Be Active, Not Just a Facebook Stalker!
The goal is to be more than just a number on a page. We truly hope to be active not only for offroad rides but in the community with events and functions just to be together more locally as a family.
- No Trespassing!
Please do not take it upon yourself to find out what this means. Know the rules of where you ride. Do not go off on your own. Do not ride on posted land. Do not ride in the creeks where not allowed.
- Take Out What You Take In
Tread lightly and respect your surroundings. If you see trash, pick it up. And do not litter! It’s a simple rule!
- Don’t Be a Trailblazer!
When with a group, stay with the group. Listen to your spotters. Always keep the rider behind you in sight. Safety is always first. Be honest with your trail leader. Know your ride and your ability.
- Not Responsible for Mother Nature or Stupidity
Any damage that occurs to your vehicle while on club trips is your personal responsibility.
- Pets Are Welcome
Yep, your furry friends can come but for their safety, they must be in your ride or on a leash.
- Don’t Drink and Drive (or Ride!)
Don’t drink and drive. It’s the law. No alcohol when on club rides on the trails. We want to send you home ALIVE!