Photo Credit: @patriotickenny/Instagram
Kenny Jary proudly served in the Navy. At 80 years young, you wouldn’t expect him to be a TikTok star, but that’s who he is today. Known as “Patriotic Kenny,” people worldwide have fallen in love with this Minnesotan.
Over 1.1 million people follow Kenny on TikTok. []
In 2021, Kenny’s mobility scooter broke down. Even with insurance and other coverage, he didn’t have the funds to replace it, so a friend and neighbor, Amanda Kline, helped him produce a video while she began a GoFundMe campaign. []
People raised more than $110,000 to help Kenny replace the scooter, which was significantly more than he required. Instead of keeping the extra cash for himself, he decided to pay it forward. Watch the video below to see how this has impacted him and what he's done since.
Kline Painted His New Scooter in Patriotic Colors
Kline couldn’t believe how fast the movement grew to help Kenny get a new scooter. “It grew in like two weeks,” she said. “It just flew up there. Pretty crazy.” []
Kenny couldn’t believe it either. “I had a hard time believing that there’s all them nice people who would do something like that for me,” he said.
Kenny is dependent on his scooter for independence and mobility. One of his favorite activities is to go into town to visit with friends at coffee shops. Through the donations from GoFundMe, he’s now able to have a portable scooter for small jaunts and a heavy-duty one for longer trips.
Kline delivered the new scooter at Veterans Memorial Park. They had Kenny arrive blindfolded so that he could be surprised by the patriotic colors they’d used to liven up the scooter. He had tears in his eyes when he got to see it. “I don’t believe this,” he said.
After taking a few laps around the park on the new scooter, he described it as the nicest gift he’d ever been given. “It’s $10 million to me,” Kenny said. “It’s so fancy.”
GoFundMe was so inspired by the actions of Kline that they put together a feature highlighting the outcome and why it was so important. “I can walk a little bit,” Kenny said, “but my health limits how far I can go. Having a scooter lets me meet more people, make them smile, and talk to them.” []
Kenny Says He Breaks Down Each Time They Give a Scooter Away
“It’s more than an honor,” Kenny says of the scooter giveaway program they’ve launched with the help of GoFundMe donations. “It feels like I’m going back to the United States Navy… It makes me so happy that we’ve got so many good people out there.”
When Kenny invited people to nominate veterans who needed a mobility scooter, he received more than 500 submissions in just 24 hours. Although the VA offers support for these challenging issues, the process can also be extensive. People can wait months, if not years, to receive the equipment or support they require.
According to Kenny, the scooters that eventually are authorized usually require maintenance soon after they’re received. The quality isn’t the best. With this pay it forward program, the goal is to change lives by ensuring a new, reliable scooter is available.
They were able to provide two scooters to veterans right away after the initial success of the GoFundMe campaign. “We called two veterans; it was awesome,” said Kenny. “One of the highlights of our lives.
Kenny and Amanda have also worked out a deal with the scooter manufacturer. Although the products retail for $1,700, it only takes $930 for them to provide one to a deserving veteran.
Kenny shared the moment when he received the new scooter with his best friend, Jerry. Jenny, Jerry’s daughter, is a friend of Amanda's. Kline is one of Kenny’s neighbors. “The four of us have become the crew,” Amanda said. “Two of us are deaf. Kenny’s learning sign language, and I already know how to do it. []
Kenny and Amanda have since raised enough money through this new venture to deliver 50 mobility scooters to veterans that need them.
Kenny says that he’s got angels looking after him, especially the group of people who are with him today.
The Free Scooters for Veterans GoFundMe page is continuing to accept donations. Almost 600 people have contributed so far, working toward the goal of raising $60,000.
If you’re ever in the Twin Cities area, you might see Kenny tooling down the street with American flags attached to his colorful scooter. He likes to wave at the cars as they pass, and more people than ever are waving back.
[] https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2021/10/03/tiktok-star-patriotic-kenny-veteran-scooters/; [] https://www.kare11.com/article/life/minnesota-veteran-kenny-jary-surprised-with-new-scooter/89-908fcf31-89cc-46d8-9110-64130085590a; [] https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/militarykind/2021/10/11/tiktok-users-raise-small-fortune-navy-veteran/6096766001/; [] https://www.gofundme.com/c/heroes/meet-kenny; [] https://www.twincities.com/2022/04/03/how-an-80-year-old-navy-vet-from-mahtomedi-became-a-tiktok-sensation/