Trucking charities get boost from MATS

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 3/27/2013

The Mid-America Trucking Show isn’t just a showcase for the latest and greatest products and services in the industry. It’s also a place for truckers to give back to organizations that support drivers and their families.

Several charities that support the needs of truckers, their families, and even pets reported successful fundraising ventures in Louisville last week.

For the Jacob Russell Boulanger Memorial Fund, the 2013 MATS expo was the first time the group had a booth at the show. Board member Michael Frybarger said the organization collected more than $6,000 through booth donations and an auction.

“We were received real well by the people who stopped by our booth,” said Frybarger, an OOIDA life member. “We did quite well. We’ll be able to help a lot of drivers with it.”

The JRMB helps with life costs such as rent, food and utilities for drivers in need.

Trucker Charity Inc. also reported a “great turnout” for their booth and auction.

“Looks like we did about $8,000 to $8,500 for everything,” said Lance Wood, president of Trucker Charity and an OOIDA Life Member. “We went through about 7,000 brochures at our booth. We just got back (Monday) and unloaded everything.”

Wood said the donations will be used to support the organization’s mission of providing assistance to those in need in the trucking industry.

“Our mission is get them safe, get them fed, and get them home,” he said. “It’ll go quite a ways to help us get drivers home. It definitely gives us some breathing room.”

The St. Christopher Trucker Relief and Development Fund hauled in more than 305 pounds of worth of cash donations as part of their “Big Rig of Change” initiative, according to Denise Pittenger, director of fundraising.
Pittenger said the campaign is to raise 80,000 lbs. of change – the weight of a big rig. An exact tally of the change is expected to be released later this week, once the coins have been counted by a bank. The St. Christopher Fund raises money to support drivers and their families who have financial needs due to medical problems.

For one organization, the results were not what they hoped for.

Operation Roger, a charity that transports pets cross-country from shelters to permanent homes, fell short of its fundraising goal.

“Overall, we did not do as well as we need to do,” said Sue Wiese, president and OOIDA life member. “But we’re going to have years like that. We were several thousand dollars short of what we did last year. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Wiese said her organization is in need of sponsors to underwrite trips to other truck shows. Operation Roger usually attends only MATS as part of its fundraising effort. The group also solicits donations through its website.

Jon Osburn, president of Truckers United For Charities, said he thinks the winter weather may have affected some of the turnout at charity events during the show.

“Weather diminished some of our stuff,” said Osburn, an OOIDA senior member. “It was just cold at night. Saturday, even the turnout for the show was less than we’d see on a typical Saturday because of fear of the (winter) storm.”

Despite the weather, Osburn said his group still managed to have a successful series of events pledge-wise. The group raised funds this year for Truckers Against Trafficking and a Kentucky camp for children with cancer. The donations will be split with one-third of the contributions going to TAT and the remaining two-thirds going to the cancer camp.

“Truck drivers have big hearts,” Osburn said. “We’re soft touches.”

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