Truck shows' 2023 haul for charity: $2M-plus

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Updated Jan 2, 2024
Waupun Truck-n-Show from above
The Waupun Truck-n-Show in Wisconsin was but one among a myriad shows in 2023 that raised money for a charitable cause.
Courtesy of Waupun Truck N Show

It was somewhere around 2011 when veteran Iowa trucker Eldon “Eldie” Jaeger woke up with an idea. “We had lost our daughter Brenda to cancer. She fought it for fourteen and a half years. All I could think was if someone before had not done something for cancer, we wouldn't have had her nearly that long." 

What if he could put together a nice custom truck? What if he took that truck around the country and sold raffle tickets on it for cancer research? 

By May of 2013, with the help of over 70 sponsors who, for their part, donated many of the materials from which the truck was built, the 2000 model custom Peterbilt, dubbed Longhaul Survivor, was complete.

'Longhaul survivor' 2000 379 nearing completionThe Longhaul Survivor 2000 379 around the time of its completion

For the entire next year, Jaeger traversed the country, from Minnesota to Texas, from Las Vegas to Lexington, Virginia. He moved from show to show until he sold enough tickets at $10 apiece for a chance to win the rig until he was able to donate $142,420 to the American Cancer Society. 

"Anyone can afford ten bucks,” he said. “Mark Reddig had me on [SiriusXM Road Dog]. So did Tim Ridley.” Jaeger’s mission made trade publications across the U.S., including Overdrive.   

“Out of the blue one day, a man from 500 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, sent us a check for $2,000,” the onetime cow hauler continued. “We had a few who bought $1,000 worth of tickets. One or two had bought $500 worth. But the lady who won the truck had only bought one ten-dollar ticket.”

Fast-forward from that bellwether moment to May of this year, when Jaeger’s place as a bona fide fund-raising celebrity was sealed, as the truck show he founded in the throes of the Great Recession, Midwest Pride in Your Ride in Earlville, Iowa, surpassed the $1M mark in total funds raised for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Midwest Pride in your Ride $1M raised signEarlville, Iowa, May 2023“We started in 2008 with three trucks," he said. "It was me, my boy Rod Jaeger, and Josh Hanestock. A lady was selling sandwiches. That's what we donated to the Relay for Life that year. Two years ago we had 252 trucks. The man who owns Tri-State Raceway [in Earlville], Reid Kuhlman, donates the use of his track. It's a beautiful facility.”

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A brief history of fund-raiser truck shows In the United States

1989: It was nearly 35 years ago when five men sat down for coffee at a diner in Waupun, Wisconsin.

“It was four truckers and a local gentleman who worked with truckers,” said Nancy Kutschenreuter, longtime volunteer for the Waupun Truck-n-Show. “They were trying to help a local family,” she said. “They came to be known as 'the five brothers.' This year will be our 35th anniversary.”

During its tenure, the Waupun Truck-n-Show has raised a cumulative amount in the seven-figure range for local charities, according to Kutschenreuter.

Meanwhile, back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that very same year, around 42 truckers, working with area Make-a-Wish chapters led by business and labor leaders Sydney Friedman, J.C. Hale, and Ken Laukhuff, would fulfill the wishes of 35 children in the very first Mother's Day Convoy

First Make Awish Convoy PhotoCourtesy of George Ruelens

The convoy would evolve into, according to several reports, the largest in the world. All told, according to show volunteer Lori Dietrich, “The cumulative total for all of the years of the convoy is $9,248,015."

2007: Abetted by the sea change of smartphone technology and social media platforms, an entire new generation of grassroots, driver-centric truck shows such as Jaeger's would emerge. 

Today,  a veritable army of Eldie Jaegers has risen up, hosting truck shows across the country, charting a course to raise money for a panoply of charitable causes including memorial scholarships, children's hospitals, food banks, veterans’ suicide, winter coats for needy children and animal shelters. 

In 2023 alone, these events have amassed a staggering $2,282,892 in contributions, not including amounts that remain undisclosed.

I didn't think it would be remotely possible to come up with anything approaching a comprehensive number on how much these shows have raised. But I had been challenged to undertake the task by fellow trucker, singer and show organizer Tony Justice -- from the stage, no less -- at the Shine in the Pines Truck Show in Georgia earlier this year. “I'd really like to see someone like Overdrive magazine calculate just how much of a difference these truck shows make in peoples’ lives. Paul, maybe you could do that.”

It was a nice thought, but the task seemed too daunting. Then I stumbled on the Truck Show List, an interactive site built by Chris Fiffie. 

“People would ask me about what I thought about various truck shows," Fiffie said of the list's origins. "I realized there was no comprehensive list that people could go to.

“I wanted to provide families with a type of Google for truck shows. So there's a map of upcoming shows they can reference to plan their vacations with.” 

So if you want a truck show in your area with live music, there's a filter for that on the Truck Show List. If you're looking for a show like Midwest Pride in Your Ride, which supports a charitable cause, there's a filter for that as well. The interactive list is new, growing fast, and easy to use. If you do business at truck shows like I do sometimes, you can also register your services for free. I just listed my services yesterday in the drop-down box under musician, band

So from there, with Mr. Fiffie's list, Denise (my wife) and I embarked on the task of listing the total charitable contributions from truck shows in 2023. When we realized the Truck Show List was a great starting point, but still a work in progress, she began scraping the web. Road Pro's list of truck shows was invaluable, as was the one compiled by Women in Trucking. The most extensive list out there we found was by the perhaps hardest working couple in journalism, Michele and Steve Ford. The LargeCarMag list, sent to me by Bullsnot's Vann Brown, turned up several shows we hadn't yet found.

After chasing down these shows off and on for about 10 days, I've come to declare the task Sysiphean in nature, never to be completed. Suffice it to say that no tongue can tell fully and adequately the boundless magnanimity of the American trucker. But these were the ones we could find, and now I need to go to the chiropractor.

Some shows were unable to meet their fund-raising goals in 2023, citing rain events and competition from other nearby shows, but all were put on by folks who worked hard to make a difference. The Eldie Jaegers of this world, just good, honest working people who woke up one morning with an idea. To all of you, we at Overdrive offer a deep bow and hale and hearty holiday cheer. If I missed your show, my apologies. Please email me at [email protected], or call at 765-730-7643, and we'll add you to the list.

The 2023 charitable truck shows list

American Truckers Jubilee trophyAmerican Truckers Jubilee, Searcy, Arkansas, Cause: Sparrow's Promise, Amount raised: $5,000Denise Marhoefer

Big iron classic overhead at nightBig Iron Classic, Mantorville, Minnesota, Cause: Toys for Tots, local charities, Amount raised: $5,000Courtesy Big Iron Classic

Big Time Kustomz Dyno For Charity
Augusta, New Jersey
Cause: Breathe for Michael Foundation
Amount raised: Undisclosed

Class 8 at the Lake Truck Show
Geneva, Ohio
Cause: Feed Our Vets Food Pantry, VFW Riders Post 6846 (building wheelchair ramps for veterans)
Amount raised: $4,000 and $4,000, respectively

DMF-OH Cancer Benefit
Randolph, Ohio
Cause: Local families battling cancer
Amount raised: $50,000

concrete mixer with ribbon on side“After a golf fund-raiser for the Denise Marie Flaherty Memorial Foundation, my son said to me, ‘You know, you have way more friends who love trucks.’“ --Heidi Benjamin, DMF-OH show founderPhoto used with permission
Draggin' and Pullin' in the pines truck pull pictureDraggin' and Pullin’ in the Pines, Lufkin, Texas, Cause: Mission 22, Amount raised: $15,000Photo used with permission

Gear Jammer truck show from aboveGear Jammer Magazine Truck Show, Greenfield, Massachusetts, Cause: Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Children With Autism, Amount raised: $82,000Nicolas Bugold

[Related: Scenes from the 6th Annual Gear Jammer Magazine Truck Show]

Great Lakes Pride and Shine 
West Michigan Truck Show
Hudsonville, Michigan
Cause: 92 for 22 Veteran Suicide
Amount raised: $101,500

Great Salt Lake Truck Show
Lehi, Utah
Cause: Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho
Amount raised: $50,000

Trucks lined up at night at GBATSGuilty By Association Truck Show, Joplin, Missouri, Cause: Special Olympics of Missouri, Amount raised: $120,000

Gulf Coast Big Rig Truck Show
Biloxi, Mississippi
Cause: Wounded Warrior Project
Amount raised: Undisclosed 

Dirty Business Truck Show novelty checkH.D. Equipment Dirty Business Truck Show, Grand Mound, Iowa, Cause: University of Iowa, Stead Family Children's Hospital, Amount raised: $59,667Photo courtesy of Dirty Business Truck Show
Heartland Truck Show prepHeartland Truck Show, Clarion, Iowa, Cause: Clarion Volunteer Fire Department, Amount raised: $28,200Photo used with permission
Hot and Cold Truck Show
Pratt, Kansas
Cause: Project Warm
Amount raised: undisclosed 

Keystone Diesel Nationals 
Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Cause: Help the Fight
Amount raised: $13,404

Laid Back on I-55 Truck Show
Perryville, Missouri
Cause: Down Syndrome Association of Greater Saint Louis
Amount raised: $27,177.10

Lanita specialized truck show, lined upLanita Specialized Truck Show, Mount Aetna, Pennsylvania, Cause: Local family, Amount raised: Undisclosed
LargeCarMag Family Gathering posterLargeCarMag Family Gathering, Reading, Pennsylvania, Cause: American Cancer Society Relay For Life, Amount raised: $8,310

Large Car Magazine, Dirty Diesel Toy Drive/Truck Show
Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
Amount raised: Hundreds of Toys

Large Cars and Guitars stage, overheadLarge Cars and Guitars, Kodak, Tennessee, Cause: Susan G. Komen Foundation, Amount raised: $45,191James Crowley
[Related: 12,000 'Chromies' in the Smokies: Large Cars & Guitars wraps a $40K haul for breast cancer]

Make-A-Wish Mothers’ Day Truck Convoy 
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania 
Cause: Make-a-Wish Foundation
Amount raised: $553,838

Mayberry Truck Show
Mount Airy, North Carolina
Cause: Brenner's Children's Hospital
Amount raised: $481,869

[Related: Truck convoy benefiting children's hospital rolls at Mayberry Truck Show] 

The Midwest Classic
Oakland, Nebraska
Cause: Kroy Vandenberg Memorial Scholarship 
Amount raised: $9,000.00

Midwest Pride in Your Ride
Earlville, Iowa
Cause: American Cancer Society
Amount raised: $132,612.00

Semi-Crazy Truck Show
Waynesboro, North Carolina
Cause: Kids Charities
Amount raised: Undisclosed 

Shine in the Pines
Dublin, Georgia
Cause: Medical expenses for a local family
Amount raised: Undisclosed

Shore Good Truck Show and Pull
Easton, Maryland
Causes: Diabetes Research Institute, Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Association
Amount raised: $40,000

Show for Lowes
Hamilton, Alabama
Cause: Waylon Sullivan Foundation
Amount raised: $13,600

Southern Idaho Truck Show
Twin Falls, Idaho
Cause: Anna Cheri Foundation
Amount raised: $20,132        

Southern Indiana Truck Show
Ramsey, Indiana
Cause: WHAS Crusade for Children
Amount raised: $10,000

Soza Memorial Truck Show
Turlock, California
Cause: A.J. Soza Memorial Foundation for Dyslexia
Amount raised: $30,000

STS Annual Truck Show
Brigham City, Utah
Cause: Local food pantry, soup kitchen
Amount raised: $11,003

Swamp East Missouri organizers with novelty checkSwamp East Missouri Truck Show and Convoy, Sikeston, Missouri, Cause: Kenny Rogers Children's Center, Amount raised: $10,000. Pictured, from left: Melissa Jones, Terrence McDermott, Michelle Fayette. “We're just trying to build better for our industry.”
SWVA Big Rig Showdown
Lebanon, Virginia
Cause: Local charities
Amount raised: $32,000

Sunflower Classic truck show with lightning boltRain or shine: Sunflower Classic Benefit Truck Show, Garden City, Kansas, Cause: Medical expenses for local family, Amount raised: $20,553

"A friend and I were talking one night. We had both lost our dads to cancer."
--Adam Safford, Safford Sr. memorial show founder

Tom “Uncle Bear” Safford Sr. Memorial
Norwich, New York
Cause: American Cancer Society 
Amount raised: $17,000

Truckers At Heart
Tipton, Indiana
Cause: Ronald McDonald House
Amount raised: $20,000

Truckers Night at the Buck
Quarryville, Pennsylvania
Cause: Children’s Miracle Network
Amount raised: $24,836

Truckers4Hope overheadTruckers4Hope, Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, Cause: Cystic fibrosis research, Amount raised: Undisclosed
Truckin’ For Kids, 10/4 Magazine 
Irwindale, California
Cause: Shriners Hospital
Amount raised: $90,000

Waupun Truck-n-Show
Causes: Waupun Area Animal Shelter, REACH Relief, Make-a-Wish
Amount raised: $33,000

Wishes on Wheels Truck Show
East Hartford, Connecticut
Cause: Make-a-Wish Connecticut
Amount raised: $105,000

“Long Haul Paul” Marhoefer is a freelance writer, singer-songwriter and podcaster with over 4 million miles' experience over-the-road. His stories and songs have aired on SiriusXm, Overdrive Radio, and the PRX/Radiotopia network. He can be reached at [email protected].

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