Patriotic Kenny is nothing shy of an absolute delight. I had the privilege of sitting down with him at USAA's Media Row in anticipation of the 2023 Army-Navy game, presented by USAA. The Navy vet seeps joy and radiates kindness. Ten seconds with him will absolutely cure what ails you. But who is this 81-year-old on a scooter and why do millions of people follow him?
Kenny Jary was born and raised in Minnesota, where he worked construction as soon as he graduated high school. He enlisted in the Navy in 1959 and served on the refueling squadron aboard the USS Okinawa during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He left the service in 1965 and began working for the Ford Motor Company, where he spent 32 years before retiring.
In 2021, Kenny's red, white and blue mobility scooter broke down. He used this scooter to move about town and to, as Kenny puts it, "spread joy and kindness!" Kenny's friend and neighbor, Amanda had started a social media page for Kenny as a way to spread joy around their community. "Everyone in our neighborhood knows Kenny," she explained. "Putting him on social media was just a way to share him with more people." When the scooter broke, Amanda felt like if the world knew about Kenny's plight, surely they'd help.
The response was overwhelming. After sharing his broken scooter news on TikTok (or TicTac as Kenny calls it), Amanda started a GoFundMe. The pair hoped to raise enough to cover a new mobility scooter and were shocked to raise nearly $150,000. The Patriotic Kenny Foundation was born, with the intent of giving scooters to more veterans in need. Since inception, the foundation has given away 87 scooters to deserving vets across the country.
This was Patriotic Kenny's first Army-Navy game, and when I talked to him on Friday, he couldn't have been more pumped. "My heart is beating so fast right now, and it's not until tomorrow. I am just so, so excited!"
Kenny is passionate about everything, especially the Navy. "I've always liked water. Being on the ship, talking to the crew - my shipmates, that was always my favorite part." You can also see his eyes light up when talking about his foundation. "I am so happy we have a foundation now, to honor and empower veterans with mobility scooters. Our mission is to be kind, to be nice, to spread joy. I'll tell you, when we donate a scooter to a vet, it's the best. We had one for a 97 year old WWII vet; and it was just heartbreaking to see him. But when he got it, he just got so excited and started scooting around his neighborhood. Mobility scooters spread so much joy." So do you, Kenny. So do you!