Penske Helping to Grant Children’s Wishes in Mother’s Day Convoy
It was Matt’s one true wish – to ride inside a big rig and speak with his sister Heather on a CB radio.
Make-A-Wish, a charitable organization which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, put out a call for one truck driver to help make Matt’s wish come true. More than 40 responded, giving rise to what would become an annual tradition in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Some 28 years after that first Mother’s Day ride, professional drivers – including five from Penske are set to assemble Sunday, May 14, at Burle Business Park in Lancaster for the Mother’s Day Truck Convoy & Family Fun Day to raise money to help fulfill the wishes of other Make-A-Wish children.
“It was so wonderful that the drivers who were there that year wanted to come back and turn this into something that casts a positive light on Make-A-Wish but also on professional truck drivers who aren’t always held in high esteem as I think they deserve,” said Ben Lee, regional director of Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley.
Over the years, the convoy, which charts a 26-mile route in Lancaster County, has raised close to $6 million. This year, the chapter hopes to raise $450,000, which will help to grant wishes to children in the Susquehanna Valley. Last year, the convoy set a Guinness World Record for the longest truck convoy with 590 trucks.
“It was so long that by the time the first trucks were returning, we had a couple dozen still sitting in the parking lot, so we had an unbroken loop still going of trucks and trailers,” he said.
Among the 500 trucks that are expected to participate this year will be a 16 ft. Hicube, a box truck, a reefer truck, a day cab tractor and a sleeper tractor from Penske, named this year’s “Official Convoy Trucking Company.”
Make-A-Wish America was founded in 1980 by a group of caring police officers who helped to grant a terminally ill boy’s wish to become a highway patrol officer. Since then the organization has grown to include 62 chapters across the country as well as internationally.
The organization grants one wish every 35 minutes, and since it began more than 270,000 wishes have been granted in the U.S. alone.
Lee’s chapter, which serves children in Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Perry and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania as well as New Castle County in Delaware, reached a milestone of its own last month by granting its 6,000th wish.
The chapter receives referrals from parents, guardians and medical professionals of children ranging in age from 2 to 18 years old at the time of referral.
Few boundaries are placed on a child’s wish.
“We really do hone in on what is the one true wish if you could wish for anything in the world that would contribute to hope, strength or joy in your life to give you the strength to battle through treatment,” Lee said. “In the case of some families, the wish is an opportunity sadly to have one last shared memory together.”
Making memories on Mother’s Day is what the convoy and carnival is all about.
“We have a lot of moms who bring their kids and that is the kid’s gift to mom – being present and volunteering,” Lee said.
The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with a carnival featuring food, an auction, games, clowns and costumed characters, live music and other performances. Proceeds from food purchases and auction items benefit the Make-A-Wish chapter. Last year about 7,000 people attended the carnival.
Then promptly at 1:30 p.m., the convoy begins to move along the 26-mile route, winding through Amish country, through downtown Ephrata and back to the Burle Business Park. About 25,000 people line the route each year to watch the convoy, Lee said.
Each truck in the convoy will have a banner on the front bumper that says “Make-A-Wish” or “Wish Child on Board.”
“Probably the highlight for most people that they love and the reason why they line the roadways is every year about 150 or so former Wish Kids come back and they get to ride in the trucks,” Lee said. “Seeing the Wish kids in the cabs of the truck and cheering them on is the highlight of the convoy for most people.”
When it came to finding a trucking partner for this year’s event, teaming up with Penske was a natural choice, Lee said.
“Penske is such an iconic image on the road. Make-A-Wish would do well to share their name with such a large and respected company like Penske,” he said. “Penske every year has donated a full-size moving truck that we use for convoy set up and transporting goods that day.”
Andrew Stevenson, a manager of national retail truck centers at Penske, said he spent many Mother’s Days sitting along the convoy route watching the trucks go by. It is a tradition that he has passed along to his young son, Chase.
“It is an experience sitting along the convoy route watching all of the trucks go by. Each driver honked their horns and waved to the crowds,” Stevenson said. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of the Wish kids riding in the trucks is priceless.”
Admission to the event is free. For more information on the Mother’s Day Truck Convoy & Family Fun Day, visit the Make-A-Wish website.
By Bernie Mixon