Small turnout, big hearts at Kansas truck convoy

| 9/17/2007

Their numbers may have been low, but the truck drivers’ spirit was high at the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics in Gardner, KS.

Despite the cool weather Saturday, Sept. 15, nearly a dozen truck drivers participated in the fundraising event.

“We did this last year and enjoyed it and kind of got a bond with the kids and really got a lot out of it,” said OOIDA member Linda Spruk, who participated with her husband, Terry, in this year’s event.

The Kansas event corresponded with similar events across the country, some of which attracted several hundred truckers. The convoy is a joint effort between the Special Olympics staff and law enforcement officers, who help organize the event and provide escort services.

“It’s all in an effort to raise some great funds and awareness for the Special Olympics program,” said Jeff Bragg, a detective with the Olathe, KS, Police Department and one of the Gardner event’s organizers.

The large line of police cars and long-haul trucks snaked through the town before entering a nearby highway.

“We are only going to be convoying about 10 miles but obviously with the large trucks and what not, it looks pretty awesome,” Bragg said.

To cheer them on, several Special Olympics athletes were on hand to give their support to the volunteers.

Special Olympics athletes Corinne Currier and her younger brother, Cameron, held up hand-made signs as the convoy passed by, before hopping on board one of the trucks for a ride-along.

Their mother, Jennifer Currier, said she was grateful for all the drivers and law enforcement officers who made the convoy possible.

“They are volunteering their time. That’s one of the most precious gifts that anybody can give is their thoughts and their time,” she said.

She’s seen the benefits of the Special Olympics firsthand, as both of her children are regular participants in the organization. Both children are autistic, and Currier said it’s important for children with disabilities to get the chance to participate in the same activities as their peers.

After the convoy concluded, her children were going to go bowling with the Special Olympics program.

Interacting with the athletes during the convoy was one of the highlights for Spruk and her husband.

“My husband and I can’t have kids and this is one of the things we like to do instead,” she said.

They heard about the World’s Largest Truck Convoy during their regular run from Salina, KS, to Florida and were thrilled to learn that Kansas was one of the states participating in the event.

“We are trying to figure out a way to get the word out so more people will know about it,” she said.

Even though the turnout may not have been as high as some other states, Special Olympics staff members said they were pleased with the event.

“It’s just awesome for all their support. We just really can’t say enough good things about all the truckers and what they do for us,” said Luke Schulte, director of special events for the Kansas Chapter of the Special Olympics.

– By Jill Sederstrom, special to Land Line