Patrons and fans braved sweltering August heat to attend the TA Petro parking community benefit concert and auction on behalf of the St. Christopher Truckers’ Relief Fund at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas this past Saturday, August 25. The event — organized by haulers Les Willis, Scott Wagner, Melanie Walker, Taylor Barker and Bill Weaver — raised $15,755, shattering all previous records for fund-raisers taking place in the GATS truck parking area since its been in its current, Fair Park location.
The entertainment was sponsored in part by Heniff Transportation Systems of Oak Brook, Ill., and featured music by three of its tanker operators, namely the aforementioned Taylor Barker and Bill Weaver, as well as Youtube behemoth Brad James. All three of Heniff’s driver-artists were backed by veteran country rockers, The Stone Creek Four of Kingsport, Tenn..
Other artists featured on the Heniff stage included Nashville singer-songwriter Jordan Rainer, tanker operator and singer-songwriter Mississippi Ken Freeman, plus a set or two by yours truly. A shade tent for the event, equipped with water-misting fans, was provided by Uber Freight.
The auction itself was officiated by Scott Wagner and his fiancee, Melanie Walker, now in their fourth year at The TA Petro Parking Community. Mr. Wagner, a veteran driver for Rapid Response out of Saint Louis, Mo., explained in a recent interview with Red Eye Radio’s Eric Harley that he had a passion for giving back to the trucking community, so he approached show management in 2015, asking permission to stage a charity auction. Ms. Walker, a retired lab technician, in addition to her duties at the auction, rides with Mr. Walker and manages the “Life from the Passenger Seat” blog and online community.
Having the pleasure of watching team Wagner/Walker evolve, now, into team Wagner/Walker/Weaver/Willis/Barker was described to me by one veteran driver as “like watching your own child grow to adulthood.” The growth the parking community charity auction has seen under Mr. Wagner’ s leadership is nothing short of exponential. The numbers, according to Mr. Wagner himself, are as follows:
Some of Saturday’s friendly bidding wars were nothing short of epic. One die-cast truck, a Truckin’ Bozo commemorative issue, brought $1,100; the winning bidder was Richard “Squirrel” Conaway, an owner-operator with Powersource Transportation.
A Jasmine brand guitar autographed by the Bellamy Brothers, which was donated by Weaver, Barker, and Willis, brought $3,100. The winning bid went to Holly and Mark O’Donnell, owner-operators for Bennett Heavy and Specialized.
While it is difficult to choose one personal hero from the evening, one would be remiss not to mention James Rogers, owner of Spartan Trucking. Shortly after the rendition of “Freebird” that provided a finale to the entertainment, Rogers bid $900 for a can of beer with a Heniff koozie. Mr. Rogers explained to me later that he simply wanted the charity to reach its goal. Among the other bids Mr. Rogers won was a commemorative die-cast Bill Mack truck, which he discovered, only after unboxing, was autographed by the Midnight Cowboy himself.
In response to the outpouring of support from the trucking community, Shannon Currier, Director of Philanthropy and Development for the St. Christopher truckers fund, had this to say: “So many people worked hours upon hours to make this show and time in the parking lot successful. We are forever grateful to be chosen as this year’s auction beneficiaries. Never would I have dreamed $15,755 would have been raised. The hard work, honesty, integrity, generosity and huge hearts of Scott Wagner and Melanie Walker mean so much to us. We know there is a team of people that support them to make something like this so successful and we say thank you to each and every one of them. You all have changed lives. Thank you so very much!”