‘Truckers for hope’ — big plans for the new year

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I had a check-in conversation with Wooten Transports driver Chris Dowdy, based in Memphis, a couple weeks back. Regular readers may remember Dowdy as the founder of the Truckers for Hope initiative to benefit children and families and bring good trucking cheer to St. Jude hospital in his hometown.

This story detailed their initial efforts in 2014:

Since that initial Spring 2014 visit with a tractor and trucking messages of goodwill to the hospital, the group was asked back later in 2014 and made two official visits this year in Spring and Fall.

“You’re giving back to a world-renowned organization, it’s humbling,” he says about the experience. Fringe benefits: “You’re helping the future of our industry. These kids are the future of our industry.”

Chris Dowdy outside St. Jude children’s hospitalChris Dowdy outside St. Jude children’s hospital

Public perception on the adult side of things, too, shifts incrementally with every interaction with parents, says Dowdy. At the last event, Kenworth of Memphis “let us borrow” a brand-new 2016 tractor, he adds, then telling of a parent that climbed in and, shortly thereafter, struck up a conversation with Jerry Fritts, one of the 2014 TA Petro Citizen Driver of the Year winners, on hand for the event.

“I overhear Jerry Fritts and her talking,” says Dowdy.

“Why do trucks race side by side” on the freeway? she wanted to know.

Jerry not only broke down the speed-governing reasons for such “racing” but also “gave her more information about the industry,” Dowdy says. “I guarantee she came away with a new appreciation for us and our jobs. It’s like a ripple in a pond – imagine this one woman is riding along with her friends and they’re complaining about the trucks holding up traffic, and she says, ‘No, this is what’s going on.'”

The organization continues to attract support from the industry and owner-operators. In addition to Kenworth of Memphis and Fritts, Dowdy tips his hat to owner-operator Bob “Old Dog” Coer, who’s been front and center collecting donations of hats for children at St. Jude. Coer’s also allowed the use of his truck for Truckers for Hope official events at the hospital, Dowdy says.

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Dowdy’s own employer, Wooten Transports, has done the same.

We talked after a call he’d received from a representative of Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, which houses patients and their families. Looking forward to next year, Truckers for Hope, he says, will be branching into new territory. “We’ll go [to the house] in May of next year to cook dinner for the families.”

In five years, Dowdy says, he hopes to have a standing program at all three such houses — including the Memphis Grizzlies House and the Target House as well.

The houses “rely on strictly donations” for their survival, he adds.

For anyone wishing to get involved with Truckers for Hope, you can network with Dowdy and company via the organization’s Facebook page and/or its new website.