While families are sitting down to celebrate Mom on Mother’s Day, May 8th, truck drivers in Lancaster, Pa., will be lining up by the hundreds for another important cause: the 27th Annual Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Convoy.
What began in 1990 with 40 trucks and a little boy who yearned to talk to his sister over a CB radio has blossomed into something much larger.
Today, drivers from 35 states and Canada participate in the Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Convoy. This year, organizers are going bigger than ever, looking to break the Guinness World Record for the longest truck convoy.
“We’re shooting for 500 trucks to smash the world record of 416,” says Ben Lee, regional director for Make-A-Wish in Susquehanna Valley.
The convoy is part of a day-long festival that draws 5,000 local residents annually. Last year’s convoy raised $300,000 for Make-A-Wish, and organizers are striving for $350,000 this year. Much of the money is raised by participating CDL permit holders, who open their hearts and wallets for the cause. Each driver donates $100 to participate in the convoy, and many raise additional contributions.
Rob Finch, an owner operator leased to Landstar, is one of those drivers. He’s been lining up for the Make-A-Wish convoy for 13 years, almost as long as he’s held a CDL trucking job.
“It’s something all the trucks in this area participate in,” he says. “My first year, I just wanted to show off the truck and meet other drivers. But then you start meeting the kids and you see how much these wishes change their lives. It makes you want to get involved more and more.”
For years, Finch was content to make the $100 donation. But four years ago, he ramped up his involvement, emailing his contacts for contributions. His emails alone reaped $3,000 this year. Finch also hosts a $20-per-plate dinner to raise funds for the event. Since 2012, he has raised $15,000 for Make-A-Wish. Donations matter, he says.
“Because a family is burdened by hospital bills or a parent had to give up a career to care for their kid, so many of these kids don’t get to take a vacation,” Finch says. “So these donations really mean a lot to everybody.”
The more donations, the more wishes that can be granted, Lee says. “The funds that the convoy has raised over 27 years has eclipsed $5 million,” he adds. “That translates to an almost incalculable number of people who have been impacted by this convoy.”
Every year, Lee is touched by the former “Wish Kids” who return to ride with truck drivers as the convoy motors 26 miles past scenic Amish farms. Between 75 and 100 Wish Kids return for the event annually. Finch will be riding with a Wish Kid for the first time this year—his friend’s 16-year-old daughter, Mackenzie Kirchner.
For Lee, seeing the Wish Kids get such warm support from so many is the highlight of the event.
“Many of them have struggled with feeling like a burden, or feeling unattractive, or they have all sorts of questions about faith,” he says. “You take all of that wrapped up and then for them to come out and be hugged and cheered and told they’re the heroes, I love seeing the smiles on their faces.”
Truck drivers who want to participate should register in person the morning of the event. The convoy is held at Burle Industries, 1000 New Holland Ave. (Rt.23), Lancaster, Pa. Have questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Images courtesy of Make-A-Wish in Susquehanna Valley; image on lower right courtesy of Rob Finch.