SPIRIT: Children of some of the truckers involved in last year's Teddy Bear Convoy presented Nicholas (his last name withheld) with a miniature truck.
ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – Riding in a big rig is something that 15-year-old Nicholas has dreamt about but will never be able to do.
That’s because Nicholas is suffering from severe arthritis and couldn’t climb into the trucks that circled the Janeway Children’s Hospital last year as part of the Teddy Bear Convoy, a fundraising event orchestrated by Wilbert Collins, an O/O who owns Triple C trucking.
Last year was the inaugural event and Collins rallied more than 50 trucks and raised just over $16,000 for the Janeway. This year, Collins wants to raise even more.
“It was a great experience last year and I’m very proud of the industry for pulling together and raising as much as we did,” said Collins. “But we had some growing pains with it and I learned a lot about what to do with this year’s event. So I’m aiming to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 for the second convoy.”
The 2004 convoy will take place Sunday June 6 and will leave Whitborne at 10 a.m. and bobtail into St. John’s and circle the Janeway Hospital while Collins along with Tom Rideout, Minister of Transportation and Works, present the cheque to the hospital during this year’s Janeway Children’s Hospital telethon.
“We were given a prime time spot on the telethon,” said Collins.”We’ll be presenting the check at noon on the roof of the hospital while the trucks circle in behind us honking their horns.”
The Janeway telethon is a 24-hour event that begins at 5:30 p.m. June 5 and will be broadcast on CBC television, said Paula Eddy, manager of community event development for the Janeway Hospital.
“This year is the 20th anniversary for the telethon, and I’m very excited about the trucking industry being a part of it again,” said Eddy.
“When Wilbert approached us last year with his idea, I thought it was fantastic! I thought it would be great to partner with truckers because their personalities are such that most of them are go-getters. It makes for a great group to do a project with since they are all accustomed to moving forward and working hard themselves.”
All of the funds raised at events like the convoy go towards purchasing new equipment for the hospital.
“We need the full range of medical equipment in order to treat the full range of children,” said Eddy.
The children are made aware of what the truckers do the day of the convoy and why they are doing it.
“The kids really enjoy that day,” said Eddy. “We get special permission from the city for that day so the convoy can circle the hospital and honk horns and do all of the things they aren’t supposed to do in a hospital zone, and we take all of the kids to the windows and out on the patio so they can see all the trucks close up. Some of the truckers presented the kids with die-cast replicas of trucks and told stories of what it’s like to be out on the road in a big rig and the kids really got a kick out of that.”
Collins, who is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent Truckers Association (NALITA) and serves on the board for the Newfoundland and Labrador Carriers Association (NALCA), said the idea of the Teddy Bear Convoy was born while reading the newspaper one day and taking in all of the negative news.
“Trucking often gets a blast for the things that go on in the industry, at least in the mainstream media, and I wanted to come up with something that would be good for the community and for the industry,” said Collins, who consequently earned the 2003 Good Samaritan Award at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s annual convention last October. Nicholas, who was celebrating his 16th birthday the same day, as well as his family, were invited to attend but couldn’t due to Nicholas’ illness.
Collins said this year’s event is also in part dedicated to Wally Gosse, an O/O from Newfoundland who passed away a few months ago.
“Wally was a friend and a big part of last year’s convoy event,” said Collins.
“He was a great inspiration to me last year and always gave me the little push that I needed and I would like to dedicate this year’s event to some degree to him.”
Pledge sheets for the convoy are available at Parts for Trucks, Toromont Cat, OMD Auto Parts in Clarenville and Professional Tire in Gander. And every participant who raises over $200 will receive a Teddy Bear Convoy hat.
For more information about the convoy contact Wilbert Collins at 709-535-1905.