Most people would probably say it’s kind of crazy for a guy living in southwest Missouri to have spent the last 12 years being heavily involved in a Special Olympics Convoy in South Dakota.
But OOIDA Member Marty Ellis says his involvement in the convoy is a “labor of love” for the Special Olympian.
“There’s nobody that has a better attitude than those Special Olympics athletes,” he said. “They’re just happy to see you and you get a big hug. It’s worth it.”
Ellis, who makes his home just north of Joplin, Mo., has been involved in the South Dakota Convoy for Special Olympics for 12 years now. He’s a company driver for A & A Express out of Brandon, S.D. He and his wife used to live in the Mount Rushmore state, which helps explain the connection that spans more than 500 miles.
“A friend of mine there at A & A told me that they were going to try and put together this convoy for Special Olympics,” he said. “Our first year, I think we had 18 trucks. Little by little, we got more involved.”
The convoy has developed during the past 12 years to include a truck show and poker run. This past weekend saw 127 trucks take part in the convoy at Sioux Falls, with another 18 trucks having a separate convoy in Rapid City.
“I think the first year we raised about $5,000,” Ellis said. “Last year we raised a little over $45,000. Between the last few years, we’ve been right around the $40,000 to $45,000 mark each year.”
Todd Bradswich, the Torch Run liaison for Special Olympics of South Dakota, said the 127 participants this year made the event the largest it’s ever been.
“It’s nice to see every year we’re growing and getting more companies involved,” he said.
Bradswich said Ellis’ leadership has been vital to the convoy’s growth as well.
“He’s the one that gets everybody together; he’s the communicator,” he said. “I don’t know what we’d do without him. Everybody on the committee, when there’s an issue or stuff, we know who to run to.”
One of those committee members, Carmen Anderson, used to work with Ellis at A&A Express. She echoed Bradswich’s comments that Ellis is a driving force behind the event.
“Marty is just one of the most giving and unselfish persons I’ve ever known,” she said. “His heart is just so big when it comes to the Olympics and the convoy. … He’s the glue that holds us all together.”
For his part, Ellis credits the other volunteers and participants for the convoy’s success.
“I have a great group of volunteers,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t happen. They work their butts off, not only at the event itself but throughout the year. They knock on doors, and some of them make things to bring to our live auction. It’s amazing what they do.”
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