For the 30th time, hundreds of truck drivers gave up their precious weekends to do something for children battling serious health issues. In doing so, they are expected to have raised several hundred thousand dollars for the Make-A-Wish organization of Philadelphia, Northern Delaware and the Susquehanna Valley.
Organizers estimate some 650 truckers turned out in a cold, all-day rain in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the 26-mile convoy that has become one of the more unusual Mother’s Day traditions. While final numbers are not yet in, it’s believed they will have raised more than $500,000. In its history, the event, including this year, will have raised more than $7 million to grant wishes to children facing serious, often life-threatening illnesses.
And, it all started with a little boy who wanted a ride in a big truck.
“The Mother’s Day Truck Convoy has a pretty famous origin story,” said Ben Lee, regional director for Make-A-Wish. “In 1990 a 12-year-old boy named Matt was a wish kid in his wish was elegantly simple: to ride in a big rig truck and talk to his sister Heather on a CB radio.
“A call went out to the truck driving community in Lancaster County. Forty-two trucks turned out that very first year. Matt sat in the front and Heather was in the back and his wish was granted. The origin story is really organic. You could never really force something like this to take off. It started as naturally as you could ever imagine.”
Lee said those 42 truck drivers, had such a good time they asked to come back the next year, not just for Matt, but for all the kids who have had a wish granted, according to Lee.
In the last several years, the convoy has shifted into a new and even higher gear, attracting more trucks and supporting sponsors, like the RoadPro Family of Brands. Lee said the Mother’s Day truck convoy is now responsible for granting about 70% of all the wishes for children in the Susquehanna Valley.
Three Generations of Buckwalters
Mark Buckwalter did not drive in that first convoy. However, he was among the 80 or so drivers who showed up the next year and has been part of the convoy ever since. He and his son drove in the 30th anniversary event Sunday. They were joined by a third generation of the family.
Mark was a company driver at the time, driving a Mack R model and pulling a reefer. Buckwalter said he got involved because it helped children in need and was also good for the image of truck drivers.
“I heard it was for the children and I wanted to be a part of being able to give them their wish,” said Buckwalter. “I just thought it was a great idea to have truckers involved in something like that to get a positive attitude towards truckers.”
With him during that second Mother’s Day convoy was his son Lamar, who was 12 years old at the time. In fact, Lamar was a frequent traveler with his dad when he was younger.
“Back when I was in school, his dispatcher over my Christmas break told me I had until April to give him a list of everywhere I wanted to go,” said Lamar on Sunday. “So as soon as I got out of school, he would start spacing them, runs for him and I to go together. I got to see Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick. Got to see Texas. Got to see Florida, all the midwestern states, anywhere I wanted to go. It was pretty exciting for a 12-year-old. It was exciting and it’s still exciting.”
Today, Lamar Buckwalter is an owner-operator with his own authority operating two trucks. He drives one and his father drives the other. They haul temperature-controlled LTL from Lancaster County to just about anyplace else.
On Sunday, Lamar’s 13-year-old son Lane rode with his dad during the convoy. Keeping up the family tradition, he rides with his dad as often as he can. While he’s not sure he will follow in his dad’s footsteps as a driver, Lane said he will remain involved with trucks, most likely as a mechanic.
Lancaster Sure Wasn’t Kansas for This Woman Driver
It may have rained — hard at times — all day during the Mother’s Day Convoy, but at least there was no tornado. Had there been, Michelle Scolari’s 2019 Kenworth W900 decked out in a Wizard of Oz theme would have been the truck of the day.
Scolari, a company driver from Utah, drove in the convoy for the first time as part of a contingent of drivers from the REAL Women in Trucking organization. She was the recipient of one of RIT’s recent Queens of the Road Awards.
A company driver for Wanship Enterprises in Salt Lake City, Scolari runs reefer from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in the truck her boss designed specifically for her. Named “Dorothy” the truck has a yellow brick road running around part of the cab, drawings of all of the characters from the iconic 1939 movie, and a stuffed flying monkey on the grille.
Scolari left a job as a truck stop waitress to begin driving. She was 20 years old and since that time has driven between 4.5 and 5 million miles. She raised her two children on her trucks for the first five years she drove. Scolari said the lure of the open road was attractive, as was the prospect of more money.
“They said I could see the country and get paid to do it, and I just laughed,” said Scolari. “Then I said why not. Why not get paid to see other places. I grew up in the country and going to Salt Lake, a 35-mile trip, made us plan weeks in advance. It wasn’t a spur of the moment, jump in the car and go. We planned it. Now it’s just nice to go.”
And, it’s not just about the going.
Scolari values her job because she feels trusted to do it, do it well and without constant supervision. “It’s the freedom that somebody who works in an office will never experience. They tell you what to do and you go do it, but there is no one breathing down your neck. Nobody is checking up on you every 10 minutes.”