In 1992, Rosemarie Vara and her husband were on vacation when they passed a tractor-trailer on the interstate carrying more than just a usual load. Inside, Vara spotted an obviously sick child waving back at her from his cozy seat inside the semi.
“What I saw blew me away; it literally brought tears to my eyes,” Vara says. “Even as sick as he was, he was smiling and so happy to be riding in a big rig. I started thinking about these forgotten children. I told my husband then that I wanted to put together a day for the sick children and just give them a day to forget everything.”
After much planning, her dream became a reality, known today as “Share a Dream.” “Share a Dream” brings truckers together from all over the United States to upstate New York to participate in a convoy carrying terminally ill children along for a fun-filled ride followed by a day of entertainment.
“We started out the first year with 32 trucks and this year we had a little under 150,” says Mike Rexford, a driver in the convoy.
Rexford has been participating in the event since its inception, and says seeing the children’s enjoyment keeps him returning every year.
Participating truck is decorated in preparation for the convoy.
“If you could only see the kids’ faces,” Rexford says. “One little boy got in the truck and didn’t say a word, but just clinched his fists and shook them up and down he was so excited.”
Every year, the first truck in the convoy bears a “Share a Dream” banner and carries no child passenger, in memory of the children that have died over the years.
The annual event in Chautauqua County, N.Y., draws many visitors that come to cheer and wave to the children and drivers all along the convoy’s 40-mile route.
“People are lining the streets and you just know they’ve been preparing for this day because they have signs like ‘We Love You Children,’ and ‘Thank You Truckers,'” Vara says.
The truckers that participate in the event get involved from advertisements or hearing about it on their CB radio. Rexford says some even see it going on the day of the event and get off their route to lend themselves and their trucks to the convoy.
“Share a Dream” is more than just a ride in a big rig. Every year the money raised from the event is donated to a hospital for research.
Throughout the past 10 years, the event has donated over $70,000 to various organizations for research. This year the money was given to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I feel very proud if the money we’ve donated helps find cures for some of these children’s diseases. If they find a cure for just one of these diseases, I’ll feel very happy,” says Vara.
Although putting “Share a Dream” together every year is a lot of hard work, Vara says it is still well worth it.
“When that flag goes down and the trucks start moving, it’s just, my bones don’t ache anymore,” Vara says. “When the day ends, I’m a little sad because it’s over and I wish it was longer.”
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.