There’s an image Cpl. Norm Schneiderhan sees when he thinks about the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics. It’s a truck driver, standing next to a law enforcement officer, with each looking up at the Special Olympics athlete they carry on their shoulders.
Truckers across the country are making plans to join in regional celebrations of the eighth annual convoy – combining the efforts of truck drivers and law enforcement officers to raise money for Special Olympics.
Most of the events throughout North America are scheduled for Sept. 20, though some are as early as Sept. 6 and at least one is as late as Oct. 25. Many will include a weekend of music, meals and hanging out with Special Olympics athletes.
“When people go to the convoys, I’m telling you – everybody just feels like kids,” Cpl. Norm told Land Line.
Norm – a corporal in the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Department – founded the World’s Largest Truck Convoy, and helped grow the event from a few dozen trucks in Florida in 2001 to the fundraising powerhouse it has since become.
Since 2001, participation has grown “no less than 25 percent each year,” Norm said.
The minimum donation to participate in the convoy is $100, although individual truckers and trucking companies bid much higher than that to win the right to have their trucks lead one of the convoys. Most of the events give participants goody bags with prizes.
Even though the recent economic downturn and jump in diesel prices have jolted the industry, Norm said he expects this year’s convoy to be bigger than ever. So far, the convoy will include 53 events spread out among 40 U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
“Last year, we went through 5,000 goody bags. This year we’ll probably go through about 7,700 of them,” Norm said. “I don’t think the bad economy will hurt. To be honest with you; we average about 15 miles (per event). But the advantage companies get putting their company trucks in line and the morale boost for the driver – it’s hard to explain.”
Norm attends four truck shows annually and stays in touch with many truckers who participate every year. It never fails, he says, that truckers are so impressed when they attend their first convoy that they find themselves stopping at one or two others later in the same season.
“I’ve had some drivers come to as many as five or six in a year,” he said.
Norm remembered one recent request out of Lakeland, FL. The local Sheriff’s Department asked for volunteers from the police and sheriff’s departments for the convoy. Within 72 hours, 106 officers had responded.
“I don’t know who is prouder to help, the guys on the bikes or the truck drivers,” Norm said, with a laugh. “It’s a wonderful thing to see police officers sitting at the table, eating hamburgers and chicken and sharing lunch with truck drivers.”
Norm handed the keys to the convoy over to Special Olympics officials years ago, but still donates his time and vacation to help new regional events launch convoy events.
For Norm, the law enforcement officers and the truck drivers, it’s time well spent.
“Truck drivers are just a group of highway angels that are not appreciated because most of the public doesn’t see what they really are. They only see the outside of a big truck,” Norm said. “If drivers get downtime, the convoy gives them a chance to go somewhere, make some new friends, and experience a wonderful event.”
For information on the nationwide effort and specific convoys, click here.
Here is a partial list of convoys scheduled as Aug. 14:
Sept. 6 in Kingman
Sept. 20 in Phoenix
Oct. 4 in Eloy
British Columbia, Canada
Sept. 20 in Sacramento
Sept. 20 in Madera
At press time,
no convoy planned
(770) 414-9390, Ext. 115
Sept. 20 (tentative)
Sept. 20 in Gardner
Sept. 20 in Colby
Sept. 12 and 13 in Shreveport
Sept. 20 in Woodworth
1-800-247-0105, Ext. 17
Sept. 6 in Las Vegas
Sept. 20 in Reno
(877) 417-2742, Ext. 205
Sept. 20 at Raleigh
Sept. 20 at Charlotte
(919) 719-7663, Ext. 119
Sept. 20 in West Fargo
Sept. 20 in Toledo
Sept. 20 in Paris, Ontario
Sept. 27 in Frystown
(610) 630-9450 Ext. 226
Sept. 13 or Sept. 20
1-888-307-6226, Ext. 2
(801) 363-1111, Ext. 228
1-800-752-7559, Ext. 218
1-800-552-1324, Ext. 222
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
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