The real picture show

Charity convoy has the goods to show Hollywood what truckers really doIt sounds like the plot to one of those hokey, cliche-ridden trucker flicks of the '70s starring B-grade actors as valiant if ornery knights of the road.But this is no picture show. And you won't need a cowboy hat or boots, or a southern or western drawl, to land a starring role in this production.We're talking about a high-profile

Charity convoy has the goods to show Hollywood what truckers really do

It sounds like the plot to one of those hokey, cliche-ridden trucker flicks of the '70s starring B-grade actors as valiant if ornery knights of the road.

But this is no picture show. And you won't need a cowboy hat or boots, or a southern or western drawl, to land a starring role in this production.

We're talking about a high-profile but highly practical charity event whose success will depend almost entirely on the generosity of the trucking industry.

Billed as the world's largest one-day food drive, the first annual "18 Wheels Of Hope" event is being launched to benefit clients of the nonprofit international charity, Feed the Children.

The event will take place September 10-11 at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Tennessee. That's an appropriate venue, seeing how Nashville is the capital of the Volunteer State.

However, participation is not limited to one city, state, or region. In fact, it will take the strength and dedication of a big slice of the trucking industry to put this show on the road.

That's because the organizers aim to get 500 truckloads of food hauled -- to supplement the 60-million meals to be donated at the event.

Hollywood may know how to put a convoy on film but only the trucking industry could make this drive a reality.

It's been done before -- under worse conditions than delays caused by El Nino weather and summertime road work.

Back in WWII, the fabled Red Ball Express barreled across Europe to fuel the advance of Allied armies on Germany. Since then, there's never been anything like it to get Americans excited about trucking -- until now.

Support is already lining up for the inaugural run. A big backer is Comdata Corp. "Comdata will join trucking companies, drivers, and suppliers to ensure the success of this annual event," says president and CEO Tony Holcombe.

The Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) has also answered the call to arms. As a co-sponsor, TCA has pledged to encourage its member fleets to help distribute the donated food collected for the event. The group also plans to assist Comdata in getting major food manufacturers on board as co-sponsors.

"TCA enthusiastically voted to take part in this unprecedented event," says TCA president Lana Batts. "Our members are excited to convey a strong and clear message that the ground-fleet transportation industry is made up of true pioneers of generosity."

Batts points out that TCA is encouraging fleets to commit one of their vehicles to help the group reach its 500-truck goal.

Even Tinseltown types are helping. To draw attention to 18 Wheels of Hope, a press conference was recently staged at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Featured guest was actress Melanie Griffith, who enjoys much broader appeal than a gear-jammin' Jerry Reed ever did on-screen.

This kind of attention is good for trucking, too. Get celebrities involved, even in a positive way, and the TV cameramen and news reporters are sure to follow.

More information on September's can't-miss food drive can be obtained by phoning 18 Wheels of Hope coordinator Kathleen Cosgrove at 888-325-5746.

We are often told that when we help others, we help ourselves. Offering up your wheels of hope is a perfect way to bring that concept to life.

Help deliver the goods to children hungry in this land of plenty. You'll help yourself by gaining the satisfaction that comes from doing good works -- and by showing everyone just what the real world of trucking is all about.

And if you help out, don't worry about your left hand knowing what the right is doing.

Instead, feel free to blow your own air horn. This is, after all, a cause worth making noise over.

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