Fun & Games
Convoying for the Special Olympics
Marty Ellis, Sioux Falls, S.D., Driving for 15 years
I used to be a beekeeper. We had our own semi and 10-wheeler for the business. Hauling bees was only a small part of the job, but important. It’s basically like hauling livestock. You have to keep them cool, which means parking at night or in the shade, and sometimes even watering them to cool things down.
I got out of beekeeping and ran a bar for a while, then started thinking about what kinds of jobs I could do, using what I already knew. And that’s how I got into trucking.
About five years ago a friend told me about the Convoy for Special Olympics South Dakota, which is part of the World’s Largest Truck Convoy. He knew that I cared about the trucking industry and showing its positive image, and thought that meshed with the convoy event. It did.
I really enjoyed meeting the athletes and their families, and of course, being around truck drivers who really care about what they do. I had never met anyone with a serious learning disability before getting involved in this, and was really impressed with what Special Olympics is all about.
Drivers can have one of the athletes ride with them. People who line the streets while the convoy is going by cheer us on and the kids love seeing all the trucks. But the thing that really gets you is seeing the athlete sitting right next to you, who’s so excited to be riding in the truck and to be part of the whole thing.
After that first year, in addition to driving in the convoy, I got involved in organizing it and setting it up. I contact drivers, trucking companies and celebrities to get donations, and to get people involved. It can be tough to get drivers to commit to take the time off and be there for the convoy. But once they do, they come back. We have a great group of drivers who spend their time and money all throughout the year to make this event happen. Without this group, there wouldn’t be a convoy. Each state does their event differently, and we have something going on for two days, on Sept 25-26, in Sioux Falls. We have a Texas Hold ’Em charity tournament, food and beverages, entertainment and a presentation with the athletes. Then the convoy starts, with a police escort, on a 12-mile trek. This is the fifth year we have included a truck show, with trophies and prizes for the winners. Last year we had 57 trucks and raised more than $28,000. This year, we anticipate our biggest event ever.
Just like there are drivers who plan their year around attending a truck show, we want them to plan to attend the convoy. Details about ours are at www.sdconvoy.com, but you can find them in any state, and in Canada — there are convoys all over.