Truckers hit the road for Special Olympics
When scores of trucks created a convoy on the interstates Saturday morning, people could not help but notice. And that was the whole idea.
Taking to the highways is what these truck drivers do every day, but on Saturday — a day off for most — about 80 truckers were on the road to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics.
They joined together with law enforcement officials — who cleared the way for them — to participate in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy, a national event that began in 2001, and raised more than $300,000 with more than 430 trucks in Illinois alone.
Each truck paid $100 to participate, and lunch and raffles followed the 22-mile convoy, which proceeded east on Interstate 80 to southbound Interstate 57 to Sauk Trail, where they turned around and returned to the amphitheatre.
“The boys had a blast. It was a big surprise for them to be able to ride along in the trucks,” said Kim Mueller, mother of two Special Olympic athletes, from Aurora. “We’ll be back next year.”
Her son Ryan was thrilled to ride in the last truck, where he was able to view the entire convoy as it traveled down the highway and circle back.
“I liked seeing everyone up ahead,” he said.
Tim Dittman, a Special Olympian from Joliet, grinned from ear to ear after he rode with the lead truck.
“He wore out my calendar just waiting for this day to come,” said his mother, Arlene Dittman. While the event “absolutely” raised awareness for Special Olympics, she said she would like to see more Special Olympians involved in the event so the truckers would understand who they were helping.
Most did understand, and that’s what drove them to participate.
“It’s a great cause,” said Dan Breyne, of Curly’s Inc. in Plainfield, who has been in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for the past five years, inspired by a trucking friend whose child is involved in Special Olympics. “When others see us on the highway, they get on their CBs and ask what’s going on.”
Karen Heller, owner of Silica Sand of Ottawa, said it a way to “give back to the community.”
“The first time, the guys were saying, ‘What are we doing this for?’ But when they came back, they all had a great time,” she said. This year, she had eight trucks in the convoy.
“Trucks often get a bad rap, so anything we can do that is positive is great.”
“Trucks help us every day in many ways. They deliver food to the grocery story, gas to the gas stations and furniture to homes. They are now helping us in a different way,” said Carie Canser, a Special Olympian from Orland Park, who spoke to the crowd at the start of the convoy. “All the money goes to Special Olympic athletes so they can be all they can be.”
After the convoy, the celebration was open to the public, so anyone could view the variety of trucks: tow trucks, concrete mixers, semi trucks and box trucks.
“Kids are fascinated by trucks,” Heller said.
And here, they got to see them all up close.
Big Rig Books attracted quite a crowd, where John Gervase, of Burr Ridge, was giving away children’s books out of his trailers lined with bookshelves.
With 80 percent of his books donated, his goal is to “put them in the hands of kids whose parents cannot afford books,” he said. Since January, he’s given away 19,000 books at some of the area’s poorest schools.
“This is the coolest truck ever,” said Tamyra Hayden, after she selected “The Guinness Book of World Records.”