Remembering the inaugural Pennsylvania Make-a-Wish Mother's Day convoy

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Updated Apr 30, 2021

Updated April 26, 2021, as part of Overdrive's 60th-anniversary series of lookbacks at the history of trucking, and Overdrive's place in it.

In this week’s special edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast, part of Overdrive's 60th-aniversary series of lookbacks on trucking history, a clear window emerges onto the first Make-A-Wish convoy to set off from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with former trucker George Ruelens. He was hauling for Ned Bard & Son at the time in this conventional Peterbilt:

George and Diana Ruelens having picture taken outside of peterbilt truckGeorge Ruelens is pictured here on that day more than thirty years ago with the Peterbilt he was driving at the time — and his wife, Diana. She was along for the 2-hour-plus convoy (a different route than is taken today, as he spells out in the podcast). In the cab with them was a Make-a-Wish child. (Tour more of Ruelens’ history via the images below.)

As he spells out in the podcast, Ruelens and the 41 other truckers who participated that day had no idea what they were doing would become a veritable institution in the region around Lancaster County — the annual Mother’s Day convoy benefiting the Make-a-Wish foundation.

overdrive 60 year anniversary logoRead more in Overdrive's weekly 60th-annversary series of lookbacks on trucking history, and that of the magazine itself, via this link.In 2019, the convoy's 30th anniversary, it featured 650 trucks. With the 2020 event sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's convoy, set for May 9, stands to be no less eventful than the 30-year anniversary event.

In the podcast, Ruelens narrates his experience of that first convoy in 1989. He also looks back with  fondness on subsequent editions of the event, which have created so many memories for children involved —  truckers, too, no doubt, and members of the community in that area. Make-A-Wish helps fulfill the wishes of children with critical illnesses.

And he’s got one heck of a story about the Dodge cabover he started hauling in during the 1970s, running live poultry. You won’t regret hearing it:

More images from George Ruelens’ history trucking follow:

make-a-wish convoyTrucks staged for the Make-a-Wish convoy the Ruelens participated in. truck with make-a-wish banner on the frontA full view of the truck and trailer George Ruelens hauled with at the time of the convoy. tractors and truck parked in fieldAs Ruelens narrates in the podcast, shortly after the 1990 convoy, he shifted gears to the college classroom, then to years at the front of a fifth-grade classroom as a teacher. After the turn of the century, he and Diana went full-time in a motor home with no fixed address, and George kept up his CDL, putting it to use in various ways, including multiple stints hauling around sugar-beet and other harvests in North Dakota, as here pictured. George and Diana Ruelens having picture taken outside of truckHe and Diana also spent time working on a tour with George behind the wheel of this mobile classroom, in Pennsylvania. George and Diana Ruelens having picture taken outside of military truckAs of Spring 2019, the husband and wife spent their summers in the Pacific Northwest, volunteering at the Fort Stevens state park in Northwest Oregon giving tours in vintage military trucks.

Thank you, George, for the memories.