PARIS, Ont. – Fall has finally hit southern Ontario – and while the crisp air and flurries were in full-force this weekend, it didn’t stop the World’s Largest Convoy from rolling down Highway 401 for a good cause.
In total, 72 trucks made their way to Paris, Ontario to join in on the 11th annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy in support of the Special Olympics Ontario. Truck drivers paired off with Special Olympics athletes and headed west on the 401 all to raise money for these athletes who need the funds for renting rinks, fields and spaces for activities, as well as to raise awareness to get more people involved in the program.
The convoy has raised almost $530,000 over the last decade the convoy has been running (excluding this years’ convoy) and it means a lot to the organization.
“The athletes and those that benefit from the proceeds look so forward to this event every year,” said Glenn MacDonell, president and CEO of Special Olympics Ontario. “There’s a lot of good, big hearted people in the trucking community who take a lot of pride in what they do. It’s just such a great, unique way for Special Olympics Ontario to raise funds and awareness about our organization.
“These funds are really helping is in three major ways. The first is awareness and letting other people in the community know that these programs exists. The second is equipment and facilities and renting gymnasiums for wherever the activity is. And the third, which is very important, is uniforms and clothing…for our athletes, having a uniform just makes it that much more official for them”
This year the event raised approximately $52,000 and just the top three drivers alone brought in more than $10,000 for the cause.
Leading the convoy in the front truck was driver Melissa Mayer-Hall, who drives for Robsan Transportation. Though the lead truck is reserved for the driver who raises the most funds for the event, this year, organizers took a note from the Special Olympics spirit. Since the top two fundraisers for 2015, Donald Poll of Drumbo Transport and Scott Verbruggen of J Verbruggen, respectively, had already been lead truck in past convoys, the spot was given to Mayer-Hall since she had never been lead truck and raised the third-largest amount.
“Leading the convoy was really quite something,” said Mayer-Hall, who has been driving professionally for 22 years and said she was very grateful for earning the lead truck position.
Lead truck driver Melissa Mayer-Hall (right) with her Special Olympics sidekick, Kira.
This was Mayer-Hall’s first time in the convoy and said she raised her money by reaching out to family and friends on Facebook.
The gleeful spirit of the event was palpable. It was hard to tell who was more excited about the convoy – the truckers, who honked their horns and shouted out the windows when the convoy started to roll; the special Olympics athletes who got to join the drivers in the cab of the truck who waived and shouted as they passed by onlookers; or the trucking and Special Olympics families who stood on the side lines (in boots, hats, scarves, mitts and parkas) held up signs and balloons and cheered as the convoy took off.
The event saw close to 20 police vehicles from the local community who helped marshal the event that went off without a hitch, according to event organizers, who said this year’s convoy almost didn’t happen.
“Year 11 was a little different,” said Tammy Blackwell, event coordinator. “There was a few detours in the road, and we weren’t certain we were going to have an event, so this event was put together in 10 weeks. Which is pretty phenomenal when you see 72 trucks participating out there and all the law enforcement cars. Not to mention all the money our drivers raised in just 10 short weeks. So that’s an accomplishment. And it’s been cold, they called for snow, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Everyone’s here and everyone is a thread in the tapestry for this event and the relationships between the athletes and the truckers go well beyond just this one day.”
Blackwell has been organizing the event for many years and says each year the event gets better and better and sheds such a flattering light on the trucking community.
“This industry never ceases to amaze me and the community spirit of the drivers and the effort to collect funds, and all the volunteers who drop everything to be here and help out, is amazing to me,” she said. “It is the best look you can get at the trucking community.”
MacDonell also took the time to recognize the people who made the day happen, and noted that the event is one Special Olympics Ontario is very thankful for.
“There’s so many trucking volunteers as well who come out and help with the day, too. And we really want to thank them for their efforts for all they do to help the day go smoothly,” said MacDonell. “We’re tickled pink to have this relationship with the trucking community who does so much for Special Olympics Ontario.”
The event also had a raffle draw for gift baskets, a 50/50 draw and a truck pull event to help pump up the funds raised for the day.
Top 12 fundraisers for the 2015 World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics Ontario were as follows:
Donald Poll – Drumbo Transport – $4625.00
Scott Verbruggen – J Verbruggen Trucking – $3000.00