Ponte Vedra Beach native John Ketterer is a thrill-seeker with a heart for helping others. Having recently discovered a way to combine his two passions in the Mongol Rally – a roughly 10,000-mile, intercontinental ride to raise funds for charitable organizations – Ketterer is now gearing up for the journey of a lifetime and is seeking support from folks back home.
A Jacksonville University graduate, Ketterer currently resides in the Cayman Islands teaching special education, but said he still considers Ponte Vedra his home. An adventurer at heart, he stumbled upon the Mongol Rally online and immediately knew it was an experience he couldn’t pass up—especially following his recent brush with death.
“I was struck by a car on New Year’s Eve in 2017,” Ketterer said. “I was in Shands for a couple weeks and attended Brooks Outpatient over a month. My speech and coordination had been off, and with the help of those awesome people at Brooks Neurological, the hard work and commitment allowed me to recover. I took this year off to heal some more and get my brain working again.”
An annual event, the Mongol Rally attracts teams of riders from around the world each summer. This year, the journey will begin in Prague and end in Ulan-Ude, Russia. Teams are required to travel in small vehicles – Ketterer has chosen to travel by motorcycle – and can map their own routes from start to finish.
“I’m going to go through a lot of the Balkan countries—try to visit as many countries as I can,” he said. “We have up to two months to make the trip, from July 15 to Sept. 15.”
By recruiting sponsors and donors, teams are required to raise at least $1,396.19 (£1,000) for charity. Ketterer said his goal is to raise a total of at least $15,000 for three charities: Cool Earth, Feed Our Future and Cayman’s ARK (Acts of Random Kindness).
Cool Earth, which is the primary organization that all teams must fundraise for, aims to eliminate deforestation by partnering with neighboring villages and communities to preserve them. The other two charities, which serve the underprivileged people and communities of the Cayman Islands, were chosen by Ketterer.
“Feed Our Future allows people to donate money to help students who are in need buy lunch and breakfast,” he said. “And in the summertime, when they don’t go to school, it allows them to have less fear and less anxiety about finding the next meal.”
Cayman’s ARK, Ketterer said, also aids those in need in by performing “random acts of kindness” throughout the community.
“One of the most recent projects was a lady who was living in a house that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, back in (2004),” Ketterer said. “She was never able to fix the place up, so there were sewage problems, and there was actually sewage inside the house. They went in there, they got a bunch of volunteers from the community, and they were able to fix up the house and make it habitable.”
Having already raised about $6,000, Ketterer said he plans to host an arts and music festival in the Cayman Islands June 2 to help reach his goal. For those back home unable to attend the event, however, there are sponsorships available, and there is a GoFundMe page through which supporters can make donations at www.gofundme.com/mongolrally2018teamkman. Those who wish to learn more about Ketterer and his journey can also visit www.johnmketterer.wixsite.com/onthego.
“It’s so hard to believe that I’m going to take this trip,” Ketterer said. “It’s kind of a lifelong dream … and I’m doing it just to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and put the work into it.”