By Terry Rogers
The Delaware State Fairgrounds was the starting location for the Annual Delaware State World’s Largest Convoy on Saturday, October 5, 2014. The event is a unique one-day event that raises funds for Special Olympics of Delaware. Mayor Bryan Shupe was the Grand Marshall of the event which raised a record-setting $45,000.
“Seven years ago, we asked the Delaware State Fairgrounds to help us with this event, and they stepped up in a big way,” said John Miller, State Director of the Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics. “Our sponsors, Perdue, Walmart and Fed Ex Ground have been outstanding partners for us in keeping this going each year. I am always awed at the talent these athletes display and their determination to succeed. All of you here today are to be commended for your support of these talented young men and women.”
This year, a record-breaking 167 trucks travelled from the fairgrounds through downtown Harrington. Spectators lined Route 14 and 113 in Milford as the trucks made their way on the 28-mile route through Milford and Greenwood before returning to the fairgrounds for a festival and celebration. Special Olympic athletes are given the opportunity to ride shotgun in the truck cabs during the Convoy. The excitement on their faces during the event makes it clear that they feel very privileged to ride along with the truckers, waving at spectators and helping the drivers as they blew their horns throughout the Convoy.
“This is a very special event,” said Jim Perdue. “We all know that trucking drives America and looking around here today, I wonder if anything is being delivered today. What I do know is that your support of these athletes means so much to them, to their families and to Special Olympics. My hat is off to all the drivers for what you do and your commitment to Special Olympics.”
The organization recognized the businesses and groups that helped them with the event with awards being presented by Jonathan Stoklosa, a four-time Gold Medal winner at the Special Olympics. Jonathan said he began power lifting for Special Olympics and that he was able to bench press 440 pounds. He stated that he worked out three times per week for an hour.
“I won four medals,” Jonathan said in his speech. “I enjoy power lifting for Special Olympics and am proud of my accomplishments. I want to thank everyone for helping Special Olympics happen for us.”
The first truck in the Convoy belonged to Grand Marshall Mayor Bryan Shupe but the next four coveted spots were auctioned off as an additional fundraiser for Special Olympics. Truck positions went for as much as $2,750. As the auction was going on, several Walmart truck drivers took a collection in order to bid on the fifth and final spot in an effort to make sure that a Walmart truck was one of the first five in the Convoy. The group managed to collect $520 which was enough to secure the fifth spot, bringing a loud cheer from the crowd.
Standing among the drivers as they collected money was Steven Service, a Special Olympian whose father is a driver for Walmart and whose photo adorns his father’s truck. Steven greeted everyone he met with a hug and was described as the Ambassador of the Convoy.
“We absolutely love this event and look forward to it every year,” said Leigh Ann Embleton, whose husband, Rick drives for Walmart. “These kids are so awesome and it is such an uplifting experience to see how much fun they have during the event.” Ms. Embleton won the 50/50 raffle before the Convoy began and donated the more than $500 she won back to the organization.
The Truck Convoy began in 2001 when Norm Schneiderhan, a corporal with the Orange County Florida Sheriff’s Department wanted to do something for Special Olympics. Corporal Schneiderhan, whose family was involved in the trucking industry, had participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Initially, the event was only held in Florida, but has grown into a national movement in 26 states and four Canadian provinces.
Special Olympics Delaware began in 1971 with the mission to provide sports training and competition to athletes with intellectual disabilities. Since the program began, they have helped more than 3,700 young men and women achieve their athletic goals, proving that no disability is too great to overcome.
The Delaware Convoy travelled Route 14 to Route 113 to Shawnee Road in Milford as they circled back through Greenwood to the fairgrounds. At the intersection of Route 36 and Route 13 in Greenwood, two ladder trucks from the Greenwood Fire Company displayed a large American flag that the Convoy travelled under as they turned right onto Route 13 to return to the fairgrounds. Once they arrived back, the truckers and Special Olympian “shotgunners” were treated to a picnic and entertainment provided by Perdue.