A miracle in Joplin
The following true story of no small miracle at the late-September Guilty by Association Truck Show at 4 State Trucks was written by Debbie Zehrer, with her owner-operator husband Jeff proprietor of the 16 Ton Industries company marketing Jeff’s inventions. More about that here.
As vendors traveling from truck show to truck show across America, it’s not usual that we get the opportunity to witness the Special Olympics convoys. But at 4 State Trucks’ Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, Mo., we got that opportunity on September 28 this year. There were 160 trucks in the convoy, and they helped raise more than $21,000 for Special Olympics. I believe that may be a record on both counts! Special Olympic athletes got to ride along with some of the drivers and wave to us all as they passed. We had the privilege of standing next to a bunch of other athletes who did not ride. It was in that crowd of athletes and their friends and family that the miracle began.
Karen Johnson, our sales executive for 16 Ton Industries, stood with me along the road, surrounded by dozens of others watching the trucks pull out and join the convoy. They were wheeling out from both sides all along the quarter-mile stretch in front of us. It was wonderful to witness this convoy, but even more exciting to see the looks of the Special Olympics athletes as they waved from the trucks. We heard people many saying “Cool!” or “Wow!” — quite often. There were lots and lots of smiles (including our own).
Then I heard one young man in a yellow t-shirt say to a middle-age gentleman standing next to him, “We came all the way for this.” I couldn’t determine if the young man was excited or disappointed.
The reply from the gentleman was, “Yes, it was a long drive.” He sounded exhausted.
The convoy grew and grew. I explained to those around me that there is a small competition each year between Walmart and Con-way to have the most trucks in the Joplin convoy. I further explained that there are several Special Olympics convoys at many shows across the nation, but this one supposedly set records in truck numbers and money. As the Walmart and Con-way trucks came by, there were many cheers.
As the last of the trucks pulled out, the middle-age gentleman spoke and said, “This is amazing! I can’t believe this.”
He went on to explain that he and his son drove 11 hours from Bowling Green, Ky., for the show. He introduced Karen and I to the young man in yellow as his son, Chase. He told us that Chase has been a huge fan of the Chrome Shop Mafia and Trick My Truck for years, that Chase was a special needs child and didn’t talk much — but he drew trucks. The father told us that Chase loves trucks and loves to draw them. He handed us a calendar full of Chase’s drawings. As soon as I saw, I searched out the owner of 4 State Trucks, Bryan Martin, and showed the calendar to him. Bryan was very impressed and asked to meet Chase. After the introduction we took a picture with Chase holding his calendar, Bryan’s arm around his shoulder. There wasn’t a lot of emotion on Chase’s face, but Karen and I could tell somehow that he was very excited.
Karen and I told them that we had to get back to our booth. Before we left, I asked Chase if he would like to see my husband’s inventions.
He ran up to me as I was walking away and said, “Sure, but only if we get back before the trucks come back.”
As Chase and I walked ahead of Karen and Chase’s dad, Chase leaned toward me. “My dad says I don’t talk,” he said, “but I do. He just talks all the time.”
That sentence is important to the miracle of this story. I was surprised but didn’t expect much more. After all, his father told us his IQ was only 55. I didn’t take his comment too seriously.
We showed them our wares, but Chase’s eyes kept wandering to all the trucks around us that didn’t join the convoy. His dad proudly told us how knowledgeable Chase was about trucks. He explained that he knows everythingabout trucks. I tried to engage Chase personally, but his responses were short and his father spoke up to explain whatever I was inquiring about. Chase gave me a copy of his 2012 calendar, and soon after, he and his dad left to watch the return of all the trucks.