By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
A charity for truckers that helps drivers obtain medical treatment at reduced prices saw a banner year in 2010, helping more trucking families than ever before.
Challenges remain, but St. Christopher Fund leaders say a goal of obtaining more corporate donations and sponsorships could help springboard the fund to an even bigger presence in the future.
Donna Kennedy, executive director of Knoxville, TN-based St. Christopher Truckers Development & Relief Fund, said the fund helped 150 families by late December 2010 with another 97 applications nearly processed and approved.
Donations totaled $303,777, up from $40,404 in 2009.
"The first part of the year was tough," said Dr. John McElligott, a truckers' physician who co-founded the SCF. "The $10,000 (donation) from OOIDA really helped us out."
Jasmine "Jazzy" Jordan also boosted fundraising and awareness about the lack of affordable health care available to truckers.
The teenage daughter of OOIDA Members Lee Jordan and Paulette Jordan ran 3,161 miles across America, which she completed in June 2010. The attention that Jazzy brought to drivers' health and the SCF raised at least tens of thousands of dollars when the fund was struggling.
"She helped save a lot of lives, that's for sure," McElligott said. "The more you have, the more you can do."
As the year went on and word of St. Christopher's successes spread, the fundraising efforts got a big shot in the arm.
In the fall, TravelCenters of America and Petro Stopping Centers selected the St. Christopher Fund for its annual "Band Together" campaign.
Throughout the month of October, the truck stop chain sold "Band Together" wristbands for $1, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the St. Christopher fund. The monthlong campaign raised $211,115 for the SCF.
Thousands of drivers have contributed to SCF, Kennedy said. And she hopes additional corporate donations and sponsorships will allow it to serve more trucking families.
"Drivers are doing their part," Kennedy said. "With annual contributions from committed corporations, we could take the SCF to a new level."
With a banner year of fundraising and helping drivers behind it, the organizers of SCF are setting their sights on finding more ways to help drivers.
In the future, the SCF wants more screenings for drivers, Kennedy said.
"We want to help prevent some of the health problems that drivers encounter instead of solely helping them after a medical crisis has occurred," Kennedy said. "We hope to become a household name that drivers and companies associate with health, wellness and support."
McElligott said exposure for the fund was boosted by the MeRV, a medical resource vehicle sponsored by Safety First Sleep Solutions. The MeRV, a recreational vehicle that benefits SCF, is equipped with many health screening tools. It is driven by OOIDA Senior Member Jon Osburn, a veteran emergency medic.
This year, McElligott said, the SCF wants to partner with other nonprofits at the Mid-America Trucking Show to raise awareness about driver health care needs.
"The sad part of it is the increasing number of truckers who are just having catastrophic problems – everything from dying of cancer, and being homeless and so forth, to medical issues," McElligott said.LL