CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — Canadian driver Gary “The Viking” Ninivirta has won Trucker Buddy’s Driver of the Month for May. Ninivirta went above-and-beyond the call of duty to fill a special need for five classes at Chippewa Falls Middle School, according to teacher, Gregg Jochimsen.
Better known as “Underdog and the Roadrangers,” Jochimsen and his classes had been corresponding with another Trucker Buddy, but when the new school year started, they received some very sad news.
“The Trucker Buddy who was corresponding with us had died,” Jochimsen said.
Though the tough situation left the students heartbroken, newly minted Trucker Buddy Ninivirta was not far away.
“I thought it was cool they were still interested,” he said, “but then I went, ‘Whoa, big shoes to fill.'”
Ninivirta eased into his role effortlessly and went out of his way for the program and the students.
“Not only has Gary visited our classroom on three different occasions, he keeps in contact with us on a weekly basis by phone and postcard. Gary has sent us great postcards that connect with the history we are learning from places all over the United States and Canada,” Jochimsen said. “Although he is from Canada, it seems as though he lives among us here in Chippewa Falls.”
Ninivirta, a driver of over 25 years, lives in Thunder Bay, Ont. and currently drives for Winnipeg Moving, an agent for Allied Van Lines, in Winnipeg, Man. He joined Trucker Buddy as a way to continue working with children, because he had to give up being a Cub Leader to drive longhaul.
“They’re a blast, and they’ve taught me a lot,” he said. “And I love working with Mr. J. Teachers are definitely my heroes, and I give full credit to my own children’s teachers along with my wife Susan for their moving through the grades and graduating. I want to be a teacher when I grow up!”
This sense of humour is part of his popularity with the students, according to Jochimsen.
“The students have all enjoyed his sense of humour and how he truly seems to care about them,” he said. “He was kind enough to send us a class mascot and even purchased 120 Christmas gifts for all of the students. Gary even gave each of these students a CB handle that was unique to them.
“He could qualify for Trucker of the Year in our book,” Jochimsen added. “He has gone far above the call of duty to connect with my students and has made this a great experience for all of us.”
For more information on Trucker Buddy visit www.truckerbuddy.org or call 800-MY BUDDY.
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