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112619 ride of pride panorama_cropped.jpg Photo: Cargo Transporters
Cargo Transporters displays its trucks honoring military veterans at events hosted by veteran and historical groups, as well as in parades.

Truckers create convoys to give back

From raising money to help kids with cancer to supporting their own who have fallen on tough times, drivers find causes to rally around.

Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series on how the trucking industry gives back to the community. Read part one here.

Herschel Evans, a driver for Holland and a founding member of “Convoy of Care” has a history of leading the way on causes he cares about. In 2015, he launched the Safety Drive for a Cure truck rodeo to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which has raised more than $50,000. He also participates in and volunteers for the Atlanta Ride for Kids to support the Pediatric Brain Cancer Foundation.

In 2015, Tim Chelette, a driver for Big G Express, started an annual motorcycle ride, which has raised $30,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“I’m always trying to do what I can to give back,” he said. “When those motorcycles start rolling the day of the ride, I have a smile from one ear to the other.”

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Evans raises funds for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation through the Safety Drive for a Cure.

Both Chelette and Evans said their grass roots fundraising campaigns are successful, in part, because of the support from their companies. When Chelette got the idea for the charity motorcycle ride, he approached Big G for permission to use its yard as a staging area.

At first the company was unsure of the idea. However, Chelette said he promised to take care of everything, and the company agreed to participate. Today Big G and the company’s employees donate to the cause.

Chelette gets started on fundraising about four months in advance and goes business to business seeking auction donations. Even non-motorcycle riders join in, having lunch with riders at the midway point of the 200-mile route.

“We try to do fun things to bring people in,” he explained. “Each year we’re finding little ways to make more money for St. Jude.”

One year that included selling T-shirts St. Jude provided.

“We offered them to Big G drivers and said, ‘If you want a shirt, come in and donate what you want,’” Chelette said. “We raised somewhere around $1,600 on those T-shirts.”

Truck drivers “are hard-working folks who don’t mind getting their hands dirty at work or their hands dirty for another cause,” Evans said.

Supporting drivers

There also some unfortunate times when drivers themselves may need to be on the receiving end of a donation. Some get help from the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, which provides assistance to over-the-road and regional drivers and their families when an illness or injury has caused them to be out of work.

Donna Kennedy, executive director of the group, said that since it was founded in 2007, the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund has helped 2,670 drivers.

“We help to keep drivers in their homes, with their lights on and their cars in the driveways, while they recover from illness and injury. We give a little peace of mind during trying times, and often that can help in the driver’s recovery,” Kennedy said. 

The St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund runs solely on donations and has support from several groups, including TravelCenters of America, which sells wristbands and keychains in August. The fundraiser has collected $2.3 million over the past 10 years. And this year, Heartland Express matched the $17,842 that the fund raised during a recent industry event. This is the second year Heartland Express provided a match.

“Our employees and drivers are the heart of Heartland. They power us, which is why we want to make sure each of them and their families are cared for and supported,” said Michael Gerdin, CEO of Heartland Express.

Saluting the military

Like many carriers, Cargo Transporters has drivers who have served in the military, and the carrier has Ride of Pride tractors that Freightliner creates each year in its fleet.

“We’re asked by a lot of veteran groups, historical groups, and parades to bring the trucks. There is a cost associated each time we pull a truck off the road, but we feel like we were blessed to have a tractor, so we try to support that,” Dellinger said. Cargo Transporters has a similar truck in a Special Olympics convoy.

Throughout the year, CFI places an emphasis on charities with ties to military veterans, first responders, and the transportation industry. It also supports local education initiatives and programs aimed at empowering women. CFI has wrapped trucks that honor the troops, women who drive, and first responders.

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Children in grades 3 through 5 were able to take part in a touch-a-truck event at Mount Vernon Intermediate School and see a CFI True to the Troops truck.

Component supplier Meritor runs the Wyakin Shoes for Soldiers program to support the Wyakin Foundation, a non-profit that supports veterans transitioning from military to civilian careers, said Doug Dole, general manager of product strategy for Meritor.

Meritor donates a portion of the sales from its remanufactured brake shoes to the Wyakin Foundation. This year, Meritor is planning to donate up to $50,000. Since the launch of the Shoes for Soldiers program in 2015, Meritor has donated $180,000 to the foundation.

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