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Rapid City Convoy
Fundraising can come in all forms; from black tie galas to 50/50 raffles and lemonade stands. But for Special Olympics, raising awareness and funding for their athletes meant tapping into an unlikely and incredibly generous population: truck drivers. And each year, the fun and fundraising gets a little bit bigger. This year’s truck convoy is no exception.
Originating in Florida in 2001, the Special Olympics Truck Convoy caught on in South Dakota in 2003 with both Sioux Falls and Rapid City hosting their respective events. Unfortunately, after just two years, the convoy in Rapid City died out. But from the ashes has come new growth and as Rapid City gears up to host their fifth straight year of the convoy, athletes and committee members are hopeful that both the funding and the fun continue to expand.
This year’s Truck Convoy for Special Olympics will be held in Sioux Falls on September 21st and 22nd and in Rapid City on September 28th and 29th. This is also a banner year as Special Olympics celebrates its 50th Anniversary. It is also the 30th Anniversary of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is the branch of Special Olympics that holds the Truck Convoy and Polar Plunge and is the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics.
With 199 trucks participating over the last four years, and 102 registered last year alone, the Rapid City Convoy has raised over $62,000 for Special Olympics South Dakota. That translates into hundreds of athletes in South Dakota receiving necessary funding for state and local athletics, help with the cost of equipment, and the ability to compete in activities of their choice. But competition isn’t only reserved for the athletes. These big rig drivers will show their equally big hearts as they vie for coveted trophies and auction items, all to benefit SOSD.
Registration is $100 for drivers and gives them one entry into the convoy. Different packages are also available with more bang for more bucks. Throughout the day on Friday, drivers can also pay an additional fee to have their rig washed, which might come in handy for the rest of the events. Dinner will be provided to entrants by Texas Roadhouse and a Stryder bike obstacle course will be navigated by some of the athletes. At dusk, drivers will have their first opportunity to show off their trucks as they light them up. Athlete judges will determine who is awarded the trophy for the coolest lights. And new this year is a competition for loudest horn.
Saturday morning registration runs up until the convoy leaves. Competition really heats up as drivers bid on who will take the first two spots of the convoy and who will be the final truck.
“It’s a rigid competition between a few of the guys,” laughs committee member Jeff Cullum.
Jim Burgess, owner of Black Hills Harley-Davidson, volunteered their space at 2820 Harley Drive as the home base for the convoy a few years ago and committee members agree it is the perfect spot to gather.
“He is a great support of Special Olympics,” says Amy Crawford, assistant Torch Run liaison. “He has a very giving heart and we are so grateful to have him partner with us on this.”
With help from the sheriff’s department, the convoy will make its way from Black Hills Harley-Davidson, along the interstate, and back. A few lucky athletes will have the chance to sit in the cab of the truck and ride along; lights on, CB frequency chosen, and gears shifting. Beyond the money being raised, relationships are being built.
Once the convoy returns, the rigs will be judged and trophies awarded for different categories. Lunch is then served and the auction is underway. Thanks to donations from the community, drivers can bid on automotive-related items such as tires, truck washes, memorabilia, and oil changes. Callie Maine, committee member, says she knows some of the items will go for twice as much as they are worth, but the truckers don’t care; they know where the money is going. And although not everyone in attendance will see the great consideration from the generous trucking industry, everyone in attendance will see the fun.
And Jeff Cullum knows firsthand that this event means so much more than the financial assistance it provides; he understands the mutual joy between truck driver and athlete.
“The best feeling you’ll ever get in your life is when you have one of those athletes riding in your truck and they’re talking on your CB about ‘we’ve got ourselves a convoy.’”
Some drivers will return this year and bring a few of their trucking friends. Some are passersby on their way to carry a load; far from their family and friends and others have stopped for gas at the truck stop. Some will hear about the amazing things happening and will take a morning off to register and ride for the cause.
With the growth comes the need for help, and the Rapid City committee is beyond appreciative to the volunteers and sponsors who continue making this convoy a success. This year’s sponsors include Harley-Davidson of the Black Hills, Allstate, Peterbilt, First National Bank, and Black Hills Energy.
Consider joining the Truck Convoy of South Dakota and you won’t be disappointed.
“I can’t put it into words because it’s just emotion. It’s a really positive experience for the drivers and athletes; centered around meeting the athletes in a different setting. Truck drivers are usually on the road and away from their family and their friends and doing something like this is really impactful,” said Amy.
If you’d like to get more information, volunteer your time, donate items for the auction, or register for the convoy, you can visit www.sdconvoy.org. To learn more about Special Olympics of South Dakota visit www.sosd.org.