Truckers help grant wishes in fundraiser convoys

| 4/27/2011

Professional truck drivers don’t always let their emotions get the best of them, but it just happens sometimes – especially when it involves raising money to grant children’s wishes.

Photo submitted by Henry Albert
Like proud soldiers lining up for an inspection, the trucks involved in Make-A-Wish Foundation convoys have a very special mission. Proceeds from convoy events help grant wishes to kids who just want to be kids.

Scrolling through a photo album of a recent Make-A-Wish Foundation truck convoy, owner-operator Henry Albert pauses for a moment to gather his thoughts. Memories of the past couple of convoys are coming back strong: the trucks, the families, the children – some in wheelchairs – the honking of horns and the banners proudly announcing “Wish Child on Board.”

It’s perfectly acceptable to get caught up in a moment like this, and it’s perfectly acceptable to show it.

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, Albert will once again go “home” to Lancaster, PA, even though he now lives in Mooresville, NC, to participate in the annual Make-A-Wish Foundation convoy. Money raised goes to grant wishes to children who are happy to leave behind for the day treatments, sterile waiting rooms and hospitals.

Albert, an OOIDA senior member, will once again offer a ride-along to a Wish child during the convoy.

“For that day, it almost makes you feel guilty, because as much as you give, they give you back so much more. It’s definitely a day you wear dark sunglasses because if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye … you’re not human.”

The Lancaster convoy is the largest of its kind, drawing 350 to 450 trucks in recent years.

Last year’s convoy raised $309,000 and the year before brought in $307,000.

“The average cost of a wish is $8,500,” said Paulette Battenfelder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. While some of the wishes are for trips or meet-and-greet events, a lot of them really pull at a person’s heartstrings.

The Lancaster convoy grew out of a brother and sister’s wish to talk to each other on a truck CB. No wonder even the most seasoned of trucking professionals call it “sunglasses day.”

These events are anything but doom and gloom, however. All of the air horns, sirens and roaring engines are no match for the laughter and smiles.

Just 50 miles to the southwest of Lancaster another convoy for Make-A-Wish Foundation is taking shape. The Gettysburg, PA, chapter is ready to host its 10th annual convoy on Sunday, May 1. Events leading up to the convoy have included a bike night, skating party and golf tournament.

Event organizer Sherri Keller works for S&H Express, a trucking company based in nearby York. She joined Make-A-Wish Foundation years ago after meeting a child during a fundraiser.

She says this year’s event in Gettysburg has taken on a deeper personal meaning for those involved. That’s because one of the hardest working organizers, Jerry Gordon, who was director of operations for S&H, passed away last September at age 45. He had been in trucking all of his life.

“The convoy is dedicated to his memory,” Keller said.

S&H Express has raised a lot of money for the convoy in Gordon’s name. And his teenage daughter has vowed to carry on her father’s legacy during convoy week and beyond.

“That’s a testament to how he raised his kids,” Keller said.

She says the Gettysburg event is inspired by what happens up the road in Lancaster. Although smaller, the Gettysburg event still drew 178 trucks last year. That adds up to a lot of wishes that truckers are making possible.

“It’s all going for the kids,” Keller said.

Hopeful participants in either (or both) of the convoys can register up to and including the days of the events.

Keller said she continues to be in awe of the participants given the economy and the price of fuel. Participants are mostly local, but she’s seen truckers from California join in. Some can get a load into or out of the area that week, but on convoy day, everyone puts business aside.

OOIDA Life Member Bob Dinsmore of Frederick, MD, recently told Land Line that he has been raising money to participate again this year. Dinsmore has been one of the top fundraisers at the Gettysburg event in recent years. He typically raises about $4,000 and is proud to sport the “Wish Child on Board” banner. He says he doesn’t know who has more fun, the kids or the truckers, but the real answer is “both.”

To learn more about the convoys, click the links for Lancaster and Gettysburg. And don’t forget to pack a pair of sunglasses for the trip.

See related stories:
Truckers give hope to Make-A-Wish kids
Make-A-Wish convoy all for a good cause