By Charlie Morasch
Truck drivers, companies and police agencies have dug deep to raise money for the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics for the past eight years, during times of prosperity and times of budget crimping.
So why would this year’s convoy be any different?
Early results from the main convoy date in September confirmed the trucking community’s ability to offer a hand up, even when times are tough.
Truck convoys from coast to coast recorded high numbers of participation, and some states broke fundraising records even as the total number of scheduled events dropped from 42 to 39. National Special Olympics leaders said in late September they hoped the generosity of convoy participants would match last year’s fundraising total of $698,800.
Each trucker in the convoy donates $100 to Special Olympics to participate, and those who want to drive the lead truck in their regional event bid for the privilege.
In Washington state, nearly 200 trucks reportedly participated in the convoy and raised about $25,000 for Special Olympics.
Idaho’s convoy reportedly raised about $5,000, with 23 trucks pitching in.
In Wisconsin, convoy participants broke last year’s record of 121 trucks by drawing 122 and raising more than $95,000 – the most ever in the Badger State.
Two Special Olympics athletes led Wisconsin’s convoy event as co-marshals who were recognized for signing up the highest number of driver participants. The convoy drove more than 50 miles on state Highway 41 from Richfield to Oshkosh.
OOIDA Member Richard Damm won lead position at South Dakota’s convoy event by bidding $3,100 for the privilege. In all, 55 trucks participated in the event and raised $28,132.
Some convoy events were scheduled to take place as the November edition of Land Line went to press. Check future issues for complete convoy results.
Of course, not everything went according to script.
Florida, the state in which convoy founder Cpl. Norm Schneiderhan started the annual fundraiser, didn’t participate this year because of the lack of an available site for the event.
Georgia’s convoy included 64 trucks, down from 144 in 2007, although the drop made the event a bit more manageable, said Georgia Special Olympics Events Coordinator Allison Kaczenski.
“It didn’t raise as much money as we hoped to, but given the economy and gas prices, it was still good,” Kaczenski said. “We’re still waiting on a couple of checks, but we raised a minimum of $17,000.”
In Minnesota, 78 trucks participated in the convoy, which raised $25,000 for Special Olympics. The weekend started off with a barbecue and drive-in movie viewing of the film, “Convoy,” before a pancake breakfast on Saturday kicked off the convoy.
The event included a presidential-style escort by the Minnesota State Trooper Association, a fire engine, and the singing of the National Anthem by country music artist Leland Martin. Martin – an OOIDA member – also played songs during lunch.
Awards were given to the nicest truck driver(s), for the coolest truck, and for the cleanest truck, and Kim Lee of Dart Transport was recognized for turning in 61 used cell phones as part of the fundraiser.
“It was wonderful,” said Kathy Karkula, development director for Special Olympics Minnesota. “Our number of trucks was down, but our revenue was up. The spirit was there!” LL