This holiday season, a charity is going the extra mile to help children of deceased truck drivers.
Truckers Final Mile, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that helps return truck drivers to their families in the event of death, also wants to remember the people the truck drivers left behind.
As part of Sleigh Bells and Santa 2018, Truckers Final Mile will collect donations and unwrapped Christmas gifts to help the children who lost a parent with an active commercial driver’s license this year.
“Trucking is a big family,” said Robert Palm, an OOIDA member from Albuquerque, N.M., who founded Truckers Final Mile. “You don’t want to forget when a tragedy happens to a trucker’s family. You don’t want to forget, especially not the children.
“It may just be a single gift, but it reminds them that their trucking family is still concerned, still cares and that we are still there for them.”
Truckers Final Mile has helped hundreds of families during their time of need since the charity was founded in 2013. The Sleigh Bells and Santa campaign was added in 2015 and started small. Nineteen children received $834 worth of gifts in 2015, while $1,900 worth of donations were distributed to nine families in 2016, and 12 children received gifts from a total of $1,400 worth of donations last year.
“This is a good thing,” Palm said. “This year is the first year we’ve really pushed it out to the media. We hope it grows into something recognized by the entire trucking industry in the next few years.”
The campaign is open to any child age 18 or younger who lost a truck driver parent in the past year. To refer an eligible child, send a detailed email with contact and verifying information to firstname.lastname@example.org by Dec. 14.
New, unwrapped gifts can be mailed to TruckersFinalMile.org; 3301-R Coors Blvd. NW 293; Albuquerque, NM 87120. Cash donations will be accepted here through Dec. 21. All of the money received will go toward gifts for the children.
Palm said the program already has 26 children slated to receive gifts this year. Those 26 are from families Truckers Final Mile has helped with the costs associated with returning a truck driver home after his or her death.
“We had two families that lost truck drivers this year with six children in each family,” he said. “The kids we know about so far range from newborn to 18 years old.”
Once the charity knows which children it is going to help, Palm contacts the child’s guardian find out what a good gift would be.
“They are surprised to find out that we are still involved with them,” he said. “We get an outpouring of love back. Some of the families send us Christmas cards.”
Last year, Palm said the program kept in contact with a man who adopted his grandchildren.
“He said that the kids could really use some bikes. So we went to Walmart and got them a couple of bikes.
“We’ve tried to keep with every family we’ve helped. It’s something I want to do. It’s something I would want my family to have. We really want them to know that they are still part of our trucking family.”
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