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Truckers answer the call

WINNIPEG, Man. - Despite the high price of fuel, Canadian truck drivers in four provinces stuck to a commitment to seek financial pledges, clean up their rigs, and travel in the World's Largest Truck ...

WINNIPEG, Man. –Despite the high price of fuel, Canadian truck drivers in four provinces stuck to a commitment to seek financial pledges, clean up their rigs, and travel in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy, an annual charitable event to raise money for Special Olympics.

In Winnipeg, 43 truck drivers participated in the event, which had the support of the Manitoba trucking industry, as well as local and regional police. The Manitoba convoy was scheduled one week before the national event of Saturday, Sept. 20, in order to coincide with National Trucking Week, according to the event organizer. Terry Hopkinson serves as the director of special projects for Special Olympics Manitoba, and was pleased with the financial results.

“We raised just over $17,000 net on the event -up almost 400% over the last time we held the event,” said Hopkinson, who indicated that the community of Winnipeg wholeheartedly supported the second annual convoy. Support came from many organizations, and included an RCMP escort and assistance from the Winnipeg city police and the CN/CP police, which all helped control traffic.

“They were just terrific,” added Hopkinson, of the police support.

For his part in raising $3,750 in pledges for Special Olympics, Mike McFadden of TransX became the lead driver, an outstanding contribution, according to Hopkinson.

The Manitoba convoy travelled 62 km on a perimeter highway route, with trucks gathering for a final celebration at the Red River Exhibition Park, where a barbecue was held, sponsored by Goodyear Tire. Athletes and drivers mixed easily, including participating in a heated soccer game that resulted in a 2-2 tie.

“The athletes just loved it,” added Hopkinson.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, Special Olympics Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run coordinated their own compassionate army of 42 truck drivers in the province’s second annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy, which raised a total of $12,500.

The convoy travelled down Hwy. 11, from Saskatoon to Regina. The convoy was welcomed in Regina by the Special Olympics community, including athletes, families, friends, colleagues, law enforcement officers, and other organizations and companies that make up the Saskatchewan trucking industry.

A special celebration hosted by Peterbilt included a barbecue and an awards ceremony to recognize participating truckers, and the support of the trucking industry.

The lead truck position for the Saskatchewan convoy was awarded to Ed Wright of Kindersley Transport who raised $1,977 in pledges. Q-line Trucking came in a close second to Kindersley Transport. While trucking industry registration was down somewhat for the Saskatchewan convoy, the event organizer considers that the high cost of fuel may have caused some reluctance to participate.

“It may have been a bit of a factor this year, and we probably lost a few trucks because of the fuel cost,” says Paul Perry, who works in the safety and compliance department of the Jay’s Group of Companies.

In Ontario, Lynn Miller from Special Olympics Ontario reports that its convoy raised an unsurpassed contribution of $50,000. Registration was down in that province, but contributions were up.

“Our trucks were down from last year, but I would not necessarily say that it’s primarily due to the cost of fuel,” she said. “Having said that, our registration is down, (but) the revenue generated by pledges per driver was up considerably. The top three fundraising drivers this year raised almost $25,000.”

The city of Trois-Rivieres, Que. hosted its second annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy, according to Justine Marchessault, the coordinator of communications and special events for Special Olympics Quebec. A total of 118 trucks participated in the event, an increase from 102 trucks that took part last year, raising $18,500.

However, Special Olympics New Brunswick withdrew from the event, mainly due to a lack of volunteers, and one western province declined to participate this year, for economic reasons.

“B. C. didn’t hold a convoy because the high cost of fuel was deterring trucking companies from registering in the convoy,” says Danielle Rana, the manager of fund development for Special Olympics B. C. Alberta also sat this one out.

The total Canadian funds raised for Special Olympics from the four provinces was $98,000, money that stays within the community where it was raised.

Norm Schneiderhan, a corporal with the Orange County Florida Sheriff’s Department, created the World’s Largest Truck Convoy. He was inspired by the powerful impact Special Olympics has had on his life through his participation in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, as well as his family’s involvement with the trucking industry.

“While we are still gathering the participation and donation totals from the various Truck Convoy events across the US and Canada, we have really been encouraged with the preliminary results,” said Schneiderhan. “Some programs reported record donations. Although we are all facing challenges with the current economic situation and gas prices, truck drivers continue to come out to support the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Special Olympics and the athletes that we serve. Here’s to another successful partnership year.”

The World’s Largest Truck Convoy is a one-day celebration that helps raise money for Special Olympics.

Truckers meet at a staging location and then convoy to a predetermined destination, such as a raceway, fairgrounds or truck stop. At that destination they’re welcomed by Special Olympics athletes, families, friends, colleagues, law enforcement officers, the Special Olympics community, and the organizations, companies and agencies that make up the trucking industry. A celebration, such as a picnic, barbecue, and awards ceremony, is held at the destination to recognize participating truckers and the support of the trucking industry.

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