RED DEER, Alta. - The sun was blanketed behind a sky of gray clouds and a steady rain fell throughout the afternoon, but the spirit of the crowd would not be dampened by the weather conditions as they...
RED DEER, Alta. – The sun was blanketed behind a sky of gray clouds and a steady rain fell throughout the afternoon, but the spirit of the crowd would not be dampened by the weather conditions as they anxiously waited for the trucks to arrive.
On Sept. 16 an Alberta contingent of truckers from the province’s two largest cities converged in Red Deer, Alta. as part of the World’s Largest Truck Convoy (WLTC) event.
As word of the event continues to spread throughout the trucking industry, the number of participants continues to swell each year.
Last year, the Alberta leg of the WLTC had 28 participants. From Edmonton, 16 trucks drove south along Hwy. 2 to Red Deer where they met another 12 trucks, which arrived from Calgary. In total the 28 trucks raised $3,000.
The response this September was tenfold.
“The funds that we raised this year are unbelievable – it was very successful,” noted Christa LaForce, coordinator of the Alberta portion of the WLTC. “Combined totals we raised were more than $30,000.”
In fact, the 81 participants in Alberta raised $30,371. A total of 20 trucks left Calgary early on the Saturday morning, while the scene leaving Edmonton was filled with the remaining 61 trucks.
As the trucks pulled into the parking lot of Westerner Park, a handful of Special Athletes braved the rain and waved proudly as the trucks drove by single file. The trucks honked their horns as they filed into the parking lot and roused the crowd, which numbered about 200 people for the afternoon barbecue.
“In Edmonton we were expecting approximately 44 trucks, so needless to say we blew that out of the water, which was great; even despite the continuous rain we had in Edmonton – spirits were above and beyond,” added LaForce.
The Guinness Book of World Records event is a unique partnership between truckers and law enforcement in an effort to raise funds and support for athletes of the Special Olympics. Police officers around North America involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics have made the WLTC one of their annual events.
In Alberta alone there are 3,000 athletes who are supported by about 1,500 volunteers.
The WLTC is an international fundraising event conceived in 2001 by Corp. Norm Schneiderhan, special project coordinator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
As a young man he drove truck for three years in his father’s company before entering law enforcement and initiated the event to bring awareness of the Special Olympics to truckers.
Last year nearly 1,800 truckers lined highways across North America and raised $439,309. This year the event is expected to rewrite its own Guinness Book of World Records status, attracting more drivers through the participation of 34 states and events in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
In Ontario, the WLTC participants broke the century mark for the first time. On Sept. 9 there were 89 truckers registered for the event, but by the time the convoy left Paris, Ont. later that Saturday the line of big rigs totaled 101.
The final numbers out of Manitoba are not quite as impressive as the other parts of Canada, but in only its first year the event is poised to grow in years to come.
“We had 38 trucks. I was a little disappointed in the amount of trucks since Winnipeg is a central hub, but the convoy’s a pretty new thing in Canada,” explained Lynne Smotrycki, organizer of the Manitoba WLTC. “We already have a dozen trucks signed up for next year, along with five new sponsors, which says we had a pretty successful event. Everything went off without a hitch.”
The Manitoba convoy kicked off on July 14 with a family night and then the trucks got rolling the next day on a route that travelled the perimeter of Winnipeg.
Smotrycki and her husband are both company drivers with Bison Transport and if anyone knows how to drum up support for the WLTC, it’s them.
The pair have been involved with different WLTC events for the past four and a half years and have been International Ambassadors for the WLTC for two and a half years.
“We’re going down to be a part of the Florida convoy and it will be our third time down there for that,” explained the ambassador. “Last year we were in Minnesota and Florida, and this year we did Winnipeg and Alberta and then we’re going down to Florida. For my husband he’s involved because he has family members who have special needs and I had a son who did not survive who had special needs. As we get more and more involved we’re beginning to realize that almost everyone in the world has some connection with a special needs person.”
Although every participant has different reasons for joining the convoy, it’s the opportunity to interact with the athletes that brings many of the participants back year after year.
“Seeing the special athletes smile. I don’t call them special athletes; I call them special angels of our planet,” added Smotrycki. “Because of what the convoy’s raised and other events have raised, there are so many more athletes coming out.”
Organizers in Saskatchewan originally hoped to hold an event this year, but began planning a little too late. The Prairie team is already planning for next year and will join Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario in hosting a WLTC event in 2007. For more information on the WLTC, participating regions and organizers contact information visit www.worldslargesttruckconvoy.com.
– The Alberta leg of the convoy was sponsored in part by Truck West.