EDMONTON, Alta. – Two years in a row, Ray Phillips has used his vast network of acquaintances to raise a significant amount of funds for the World’s Largest Truck Convoy (WLTC).
With more than five decades of trucking experience, Phillips has met plenty of people along the roadside, whom he called upon to help him raise money for the Special Olympics through the WLTC event.
“I’ve been around a lot of years; so I just went around and said let’s divvy it up,” said the Edmonton-based owner/operator.
This was Phillips’ second year participating in the WLTC. It was not until he arrived at the event in Sherwood Park, Alta., that he found out he had earned the lead truck position in the convoy by raising the most money among entrants.
“I just found out today I was the lead truck. They gave me a plaque for raising the most money last year, but I forget what I did last year, this year I raised $3,835,” explained Phillips. “It’s quite an honour being lead truck. I’ve been married for 46 years and a big part of it is Dolores.”
Phillips, his wife, and their blue 1998 Peterbilt, led the Edmonton leg of Alberta’s participation in the WLTC from the Road King truck stop in Sherwood Park to Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alta. on Sept. 15.
The Edmonton contingent was met in Red Deer, by a convoy from Calgary and together they formed a convoy of 133 trucks, collectively raising $37,000 for Special Olympics Alberta.
The money raised by the convoy is used to provide training and competitive opportunities to more than 3,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities across Alberta.
“Our mission is to enrich the lives of Albertans with intellectual disabilities through sport,” said Jocelyn Plakas-Lock, vice-president of Special Olympics Alberta. “It is used toward running local training programs, which occur every day of the year, and to allow athletes to compete at local competitions and provincial games, where they have the opportunity to qualify for national and world games.”
Alberta has 10 athletes competing as part of Team Canada in Shanghai at the 2007 Special Olympics Summer World Games. Team Alberta, comprised of 74 athletes, plus coaches and mission staff, will be attending the 2008 Winter Games in Quebec City in February.
“It’s the most we’ve ever sent and that’s because of the support you guys give,” Plakas-Lock told the drivers just prior to the convoy’s departure.
There were a couple of minor accidents during the drive, one from Edmonton and one from Calgary. Both incidents involved a driver in the convoy rear-ending the truck in front of them.
Due to the incidents, the organizers are re-evaluating the format in an effort to accommodate the growing event. Alberta has participated in the WLTC for four years and it has grown from about 15 trucks to more than 130 this year.
“Overall, the day went well. All who participated had a great time and are enthusiastic to participate next year,” added Plakas-Lock. “The communities involved – Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary – all proved their generosity once again.”
The WLTC is a Guinness Book of World Records-holding event, which is run annually as a partnership between law enforcement and truckers throughout the US and Canada. The international fundraising and awareness event is designed to raise funds for Special Olympics, so athletes can continue to train in year-round sports activities.
The international event unites approximately 4,000 truckers in about 34 states and six provinces, during September.
As well as the Alberta portion, the Canadian legs of the convoy included events in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and first-time participants in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
“The inaugural Saskatchewan run for the World’s Largest Truck Convoy was a huge success,” said Cst. Joe Tataryn of the Saskatoon Police Service.
The convoy left Saskatoon and the Credit Union Centre with 35 trucks and picked up 10 more trucks along the route to Regina.
“The immense length of the convoy was most easily realized while passing through the Qu’Appelle Valley by Lumsden where the convoy stretched the entire width of the valley,” noted Tataryn.
The Saskatchewan portion of the WLTC raised $9,000 for the Special Olympics and the lead truck in the convoy was driven by Ed Wright of Kindersley Transport.
“The day was a huge success,” added Tataryn. “Plans for next year include supplying the escorting police vehicles with CB radios, and perhaps reversing the route. We do plan, however, to use the September 20, 2008 date chosen by Special Olympics International.”
The New Brunswick portion of the WLTC ran out of Fredericton on Sept. 15 and it was the first time the event was held in Atlantic Canada.
“We did not have as many trucks as we would have hoped; however, we had a great time,” said Vivienne Gassier, marketing and development coordinator with Special Olympics New Brunswick. “A truck driver’s life is very hard, and being out in a truck is a lonely life, and for them being part of this event with our Special Olympics Athletes, enjoying the barbecue, the music, and the truck convoy was an unforgettable moment.”
Special Olympics New Brunswick has more than 800 intellectually disabled people involved in its programs.
Thanks to these funds, Special Olympics can offer 17 different sports all year round to its Athletes.
“The ones that were there can congratulate themselves for having participated in the first World’s Largest Truck Convoy in Atlantic Canada,” added Gassier. “It’s thanks to events like this one that Special Olympics can afford to help talented athletes to compete at a national and even international level.”