Annual Truck Convoy Raises Money for Special Olympics
Each year, at the end of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, over 30 states and provinces in the U.S. and Canada host the World’s Largest Truck Convoy to raise support for the Special Olympics and provided an outlet for the trucking industry to demonstrate their support for the organization and raise awareness of their own. It’s an annual one-day event put on by trucking industry members and supporters in an effort to raise awareness and funding for the Special Olympics and their programs. Norm Schneiderhan, a Corporal with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and his family created the Truck Convoy after his involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) was started in 1981 and has since raised over $461 million for the Special Olympics with events in 46 counties run by over 97,000 volunteers. Members of the group also provide “friendship, acceptance and encouragement.” Some of Schneiderhan’s family is involving in the trucking industry so he decided to take what he learned and experienced LETR and combine it with truckers.
On the big day, local law enforcement agencies take time out of their schedules to escort a huge convoy of trucks to a destination that is predetermined by the participating cities, sometimes covering up to 50 miles from the starting location. The convoy usually ends at a raceway, fairground or even truck stop where members of the Special Olympics community are waiting to welcome them. Many cities have athletes speak on what the program has meant to them and how it has changed their lives. Some Special Olympic athletes even get to ride shotgun in the big rig convoy.
Everyone involved, usually the athletes, their families and friends, law enforcement, and participating trucking industry members, are then invited to take part in a picnic and awards ceremony designed to recognize the Special Olympic supporters. The group always touts the message: “Thank you for your support of Special Olympics athletes and for keeping our communities moving!”
The event grows every year, and this year was no exception. The Wisconsin Convey had a record breaking year with over $135,000 being raised to go to the Special Olympics Wisconsin, which is about $13,000 more than last year. This year was utterly amazing. We were all pleasantly surprised by the large increase,” says Julie Drake of Special Olympics Wisconsin. There were 197 trucks led by law enforcement along Highway 41 for 53 miles to the EAA Grounds in Oshkosh for a celebration. The Wisconsin Convoy has raised more than $955,500 for the Special Olympics since 2005.
Wisconsin’s event was sponsored in part by JX Peterbilt. The company’s well known food truck, the JX Chuck Wagon was at the event to serve coffee and donuts during registration and staging. “Supporting Special Olympics ensures that people with intellectual disabilities are able to maximize their full potential through the power of sports. We’re happy to be a part of that.” said Rick Smith, General Manager for JX Peterbilt-Waukesha.
Illinois hosted the event in conjunction with a second Law Enforcement Torch Run this year and raised an estimated $45,000 benefitting Special Olympics Illinois. Tinley Park Police Officer Dennis Reilly helped bring the LETR to Illinois in 2005. His goal was to construct an event where law enforcement and truckers could team up for a positive relationship, as opposed to the sometimes standard one, where their only dealing with each other are when a citation is issued. “Truckers are just like police officers,” he said. “They’ve got hearts of gold.”