Trucks at Work

The human heart of trucking

It almost goes without saying that a wide cross-section of the American public maintains a cartoonish image of the trucking industry.

Just scan the mainstream media for stories about truck drivers to see what I mean, as a few bad apples are often made out to represent the entire bunch.

It’s disheartening to see truckers viewed in the main as either wild-eyed, outsized cowboys of the road intent on speeding and other reckless behavior or closeted serial killers turning the highways into hunting grounds.

The truth, however, is usually a million light years away from such horrific examples of human behavior.

Take, for example, the story below regarding truck driver Todd Bachman and the quiet courage he displayed on behalf of his beloved daughter:

Or this story, from nearly two years ago on I-10 outside Biloxi, MS, when truck driver David Fredrickson witnessed a violent, fiery accident and jumped out of his rig – fire extinguisher at the ready – to render aid.

You’ll see his quick action saved the lives of a woman and her 1-year old granddaughter that he helped drag to safety.

Many such unsung actions by truck drivers are chronicled via the annual Highway Hero awards sponsored by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. [You can click here and here for just two stories about the many amazing feats of past winners.]

Yet it’s not always just truck drivers out there doing good deeds that John Q. Public almost never hears about.

Take, for example, the story of 6-year-old Damien Chiasson-Larson, a northern Californian native diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor shortly after his third birthday; a boy who by now has endured two brain surgeries, 30 doses of radiation, four rounds of chemotherapy, and endless hours of physical therapy.

A kid sunk this deep in misery needs hope – and the chance to make a wish. Enter the dealer principals at NorCal Kenworth: Harry Mamizuka and Tom Bertolino (on the left and right of Damien, respectively, in the photo at right).

NorCal has worked with the local Make-A-Wish Foundation chapterfor the last six years, getting initially involved with the charity group with other local northern California businesses to help built the group’s $4 million “Wishing Place.” Yet NorCal’s Bertolino told me by phone that granting Damien’s wish – the desire to be a snow leopard zookeeper for a day – is the first time his dealership granted a child’s wish all on its own.

“Every year at our company picnic, we’ll have 50 to maybe 60 kids running around – all healthy, all smiling,” he told me. “That gets put into perspective when you hear about a kid like Damien.”

Bertolino added that the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the northern California typically has 300 kids per year on its waiting list – but that 200 or so end up getting granted.

Damien lived not far from NorCal’s main location, so the company proved to be a “natural” sponsor of sorts. On average, Bertolino told me it takes $7,500 to sponsor a wish, but he fund raising conducted amongst NorCal’s employees – with Bertolino and Mamizuka matching their donations dollar for dollar – the company should be able to sponsor two wishes this year alone.

For Damien, NorCal invited him to its company picnic, with Bertolino and staffers working with the nearby Micke Grove Zoo to allow Damien not only to be “zookeeper for a day” for the facility’s nearly 3-year-old snow leopard, but to work with the zoo’s animal care specialist as well.

Of course, Damien also got wowed by all the trucks he espied while visiting NorCal’s facility prior to his day as a zookeeper (with the “wow” factor growing exponentially higher when he and his family got a plethora of Kenworth gear in the bargain) so Bertolino promised that Damien could “come back and drive” some, too.

Just another example of just how large the hearts usually are in the big rig world.

If only more of the general public knew about them …

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