Wish Upon a Trucker

| April 07, 2005

Three years ago, the Mid-Atlantic Professional Truck Drivers Association decided it wanted to do something to help sick children and the trucking industry at the same time.

The organization teamed with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to found the Charity FunDrive, a truck driving competition held in Lexington, Va., that raises money for children with life-threatening illnesses each September.

The competition includes eight classes of trucks and features 10 simulated driving problems, “things they would do in everyday driving,” says Chuck Wilson, president of Wilson Trucking of Fisherville, Va., and head of the FunDrive. The driving course includes obstacles that truckers must navigate without touching, such as a simulated freight door and an offset alley that features four obstacles.

Last year, 131 truckers participated in the competition, almost double the number from the first year’s competition. This year, Wilson expects 200 entrants.

Truckers pay a $50 fee to enter the competition, and they are encouraged to find sponsors to increase that amount. In the last two years, the competition raised a total of $31,000 to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation make the dreams of children with life-threatening medical conditions come true.

The money goes directly to the Make-A-Wish foundation, but the Mid-Atlantic Professional Truck Driver’s Association decides how much goes to each state chapter, Wilson says. The organization assigns money to the states based on where the drivers who donated it live.
The competition benefits the drivers as well as the children, Wilson says.

“It promotes safety in the truck driving industry,” he says. “These fellows that get involved in these truck driving competitions do a lot of practicing. They practice on weekends instead of fishing and hunting, and when they go to work, they’re more interested in safety and what’s going on around them.”

Competitions like this one help combat the negative image that the few bad drivers have given the trucking industry, Wilson says. “There’s so many good drivers out there every day that are trying to not get in an accident,” he says. “It’s not just a big truck going down the highway. There is a human being holding that steering wheel.”

At the FunDrive, winning isn’t everything. The event attracts several national and state champion drivers, but the focus is more on the children than on competition. “It’s not a question of winning,” says Tom Hawks, a regular participant in the competition and a driver for Overnite Transportation of Memphis, Tenn. “It’s a time to get together and show off your skills and have fun.”

Children in the Make-A-Wish program are often present at the FunDrive, and last year, they even got to ride along with some winning drivers in a run-off. Hawks says seeing their smiling faces is what the competition is all about. “We [the truckers] are the tools, the messengers,” he says. “We don’t want to focus on what we did but why.”

This year’s competition will be held Sept. 6. If you are interested in entering the competition or sponsoring a driver, call Mark Chase at (540) 949-3231 or e-mail the Mid-Atlantic Professional Truck Drivers Association at maptda@yahoo.com.

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