Truckers give hope to Make-A-Wish kids

By David Tanner
associate editor


These genies do not ride magic carpets. They drive semi trucks, but that makes absolutely no difference to the kids.

Bob Dinsmore is one of those dedicated truckers raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The annual Truck Convoy for Wishes in Gettysburg, PA, brings joy to children and families who frankly could use a break from hospitals, therapy and routines.

“Just seeing all these kids, with all their problems and illnesses, smiling and having a great time around all the big trucks is an indescribable feeling,” said Dinsmore, an OOIDA member who calls Frederick, MD, home.

During this year’s convoy, the ninth annual event benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation children in South Central Pennsylvania, Dinsmore was glad to see a familiar smiling face.

“I had my same Wish child I had last year – Andrew. He’s 14 now,” Dinsmore said with pride.

Dinsmore raised $4,156 for the 2009 convoy – the third-highest total that year – and earned a spot near the front of the pack for this year’s event. The former long-haul trucker who now drives part time for Frock Brothers says he is in the ballpark of $4,000 again this year.

Most of his donations come from co-workers, family and friends.

“It’s more than I anticipated raising,” he said. “With the way the economy is, I was really surprised.”

The money is used to grant wishes for the children, and they also get a bonus ride in the convoy. Sixty-seven kids rode in this year’s convoy of 178 trucks ranging from dump trucks to long-haulers.

Event organizer Sherri Keller of Abbottstown, PA, is the daughter of a former trucker. She said the drivers and children form a special bond that transcends the one-day event. Many drivers send cards and e-mails to their new pals from the road.

“I’m not sure who’s having more fun, the drivers or the kids,” Keller says fondly.

“The truckers are out on the road all the time. They take this one day that they’re home and they dedicate it to these kids.”

Keller’s fondness grows when she talks about Billy, a 16-year-old who had to miss the convoy because he was undergoing leukemia treatment at Hershey Medical Center. She also talks about a driver, Fred Shaffer Jr. of Ziegler Bros. Inc.

Once Billy was out of the hospital, Shaffer and the company arranged to pay him a special visit.

“They took him on the convoy route with the balloons and the banners and everything,” Keller said.

“He had his own little convoy. He was ecstatic. He really wanted to ride on a big truck, and he couldn’t believe that someone would take the time to do that for him. These drivers are just amazing.”

Keller said drivers were on pace to raise about $47,000 this year, bringing the nine-year total to almost $500,000. The 10th anniversary convoy next year promises to be special, she said. More details can be found at truckconvoyforwishes.com.

“When we started it, we wondered, is this going take off?” Keller remembers. “But the kids absolutely love it, and I knew it was a win.” LL