First round of convoys kick off Special Olympic fund-raiser

| Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Truckers from Missouri and Kansas did their part Saturday to help make this year’s nationwide convoy for Special Olympics more than four times bigger than last year’s event.

The MO/KAN convoy included 28 trucks – almost six times as many as last year – in the actual convoy. Several others paid the $100 donation/registration fee but were unable to drive with the convoy Saturday.

OOIDA member Steven Wiederholt of Kansas City, Mo., was the lead truck for last year’s MO/KAN convoy, and he was back again this year, pulling his car hauler.

“My brother-in-law has been in Special Olympics for years, so our family has seen what the programs do,” Wiederholt said. “My wife is a Special Olympics coach for bowling, basketball, track and softball, and her family (the Schiebers) were the 2002 Special Olympics Family of the Year.

“We are so thrilled that we were able to get so many more trucks out this year, and the help from FedEx really deserves recognition. They sponsored 10 trucks at $100 each and gave us the starting and finishing locations at their terminals.”

Nationwide the event is expected to generate more than $300,000 for Special Olympics programs in the 23 participating states and one Canadian province. The MO/KAN event grossed more than $3,500 this year, said Christine Fisher, Missouri Special Olympics spokeswoman.

Some states have not yet had their convoy events. Florida and Georgia, for example, postponed their convoys because of the recent hurricanes. A date has not yet been set, but state officials are trying to coordinate the events on the same day.

In Delaware, the convoy is scheduled for Oct. 9 at the Dover International Speedway. For registration information, visit the Delaware Special Olympics Web site at www.sode.org/LETR/convoy.html.

At the MO/KAN event, trucker Mike McGown of Gardner, KS, said his reason for participating was to honor the memory of a close friend who was handicapped. With his wife, Amy, at his side and his 15-week-old fox terrier Patches in his arms, McGown became solemn as he remembered his friend.

“He was my buddy,” was just about all he could say as he strained to maintain his composure, adding he was very glad he had participated in the convoy.

“I already called, we’re doing it again next year.”

Having driven up to Kansas City from their home in Sedalia, MO, Joel Fleischman and his wife, Marge, were also first-timers at this year’s convoy. They too plan to participate next year.

“We’re here because of the XM radio family,” said Fleischman, an OOIDA member. “They really talked it up and we wanted to come help out. We’ll do it again next year, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Fleischman said that he thought truckers get as much benefit from the event as the Special Olympics athletes do.

“It’s a good feeling to help someone,” he said. “People don’t know how big truckers’ hearts are, and this is a good way to show that.”

Fleischman’s trailer was loaded with two-ton jacks on their way to Wisconsin. He said he had intentionally scheduled his work so he could take time out for the convoy and still get the load to Wisconsin on time.

Although the MO/KAN convoy was limited in numbers, the variety of trucks involved ran the gamut. There was everything from tankers, to a flatbed heavy hauler, to a refer unit. There were Freightliners, Peterbilts, Volvos, an International, a Western Star and even a 1976 limited edition bicentennial Kenworth – the only one running bobtail in the convoy and one of only 70 such tractors ever made.

David Reynolds, an OOIDA member from Edwardsville, KS, said he chose to drive his bicentennial classic in the convoy for a very practical reason.

“It was the one in the front yard, gassed up and ready to go,” said Reynolds, who owns several vintage trucks and is active with the Three Trails Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society.

Reynolds, who just the weekend before had ridden his Harley in a Bikers for Babies charity event, said that he participated in the Special Olympics convoy because he “just likes to do stuff for kids.”

That was the resounding sentiment from all the truckers at the MO/KAN convoy.

- By Coral Beach, staff writer
coral_beach@landlinemag.com

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