Alex Bashenow of Bargersville, Indiana has always dreamed of being a trucker. Unfortunately, his physical and mental condition has kept him from fulfilling that dream – until now. Alex is 26 years old and has autism, but thanks to a group of generous and caring folks, he can now “go trucking” whenever he wants, right in the comfort and safety of his very own garage!
Alex, who lives in a group home just a few blocks away from his parents, used an old riding lawn mower as a truck simulator for years – he “drove” a lot of miles on that old mower. Alex has also been a part of the Special Olympics convoy for the last seven years, which put him about as close as he could get to fulfilling his dream of driving a truck. Through the convoys, Alex has been able to ride along with seven different drivers in three different states (Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois). He loves it when he can actually sit in the cab of a truck and go down the road! Those convoy rides are the highlights of Alex’s year. But, that was the closest he’d been to his dream, until now.
Ruth Bashenow, Alex’s mom, told me that three years ago they realized that there was a big (understatement) truck show held in Louisville every year, so they decided to take Alex to the event. While at the show, Alex saw, among other things, a truck simulator. Ever since that day, he has wanted one for himself so he could “go trucking” any time (and go any place) he wanted. Standing in the Rockwood Products booth and seeing all the cabs that Carl Carstens uses to display their great truck interior items impressed Alex, too.
The very next year, again at the truck show in Louisville, Alex got to meet his hero – Ice Road Trucker Alex Debogorski – in the Rockwood Products booth. Alex never misses an episode of “Ice Road Truckers” on the History Channel, so it was a big deal. Now, fast forward one more year to this year (2011) and Alex is once again at the show in Louisville, and once again, seeing the truck cabs in the Rockwood booth and the truck driving simulator in another, wants one for himself. Alex’s dad, Alex Sr. (there’s a lot of men named “Alex” in this story) is the Senior Sales Counselor at Ryland Homes in Indiana, so he is not really that familiar with trucks. But, Alex’s mom Ruth says her husband, Alex’s dad, was “the spark” that got this project started. Alex Sr. started making some calls to see if he could find a simulator and Carl Carstens of Rockwood Products was one of the first calls he made. Carl said he might not be able to find a simulator, but he would see what he could do.
Looking to help in any way he could, Carl called some of his friends in the trucking industry and many were interested in helping. In the end, Carl was able to coordinate putting together a cab (like the ones in his booth) for Alex to replace the old lawn mower that he had been “driving” in his garage. Carl’s first call was to his friend Jim Raines at S & J Truck Sales in Ft. Wayne, IN. Jim got the project started and then turned it over to his son Mike and the guys in the shop to put it all together. I talked with Mike and he said that it was such a worthwhile project and that they were happy to be a part of it. S & J donated the truck cab and all the time they spent putting it together. When it came time to deliver the cab, Mike’s son Matthew and Dan Skinner helped, too.
Hoosier Trailer & Truck Equipment in Ft. Wayne, IN also donated their time to help with this important project by painting the cab. Darren Dunbar, the shop foreman at Hoosier, told me that this was a fun project that went smooth from start to finish. The people at Hoosier were happy to be a part of this project! Lindsay Denor with Rockwood Products provided all of the graphics for the cab. Another company that the Bashenow’s wanted to thank is AJ’s Recycling in Bargersville, IN – they are a great company devoted to helping persons with special needs.
Once the cab was finished, it was time to deliver it to Alex. Again, Carl called a couple of his friends to help with that. As it worked out, Ice Road Trucker Alex Debogorski was going to be nearby, so he was able to be a part of the surprise delivery, too. Carl knew that his friends Ron & Jan Huey lived close to Alex, so he called to see if they would be willing to help out in regards to transporting the cab to the garage of Alex’s group home. Of course, their answer was yes (their oldest grandson is autistic). On Saturday night, Ron “cased” the neighborhood to make sure he could get around okay with his truck and trailer. Ron wanted to say “thank you” to his boss at LB Trucking in Greensburg, IN for letting him use the truck and trailer that he usually drives for this very important delivery!
On Sunday morning, Carl Carstens, Alex Debogorski and Cheri Kimball hurried to the Bashenow’s home in Indiana to meet with Ron Huey, who was there with his truck and trailer. By now, Alex Jr. knew that something was up, but he had no idea just what it was. Thanks go out to Cheri for taking great pictures of the event throughout the day. So, everyone piled into Ron’s truck and off they went to Alex’s group home, where the truck cab had already been delivered and was waiting to be revealed behind a closed garage door.
Roger & Rita Abell, coordinators for Johnson County Special Olympics Indiana, arranged to have five Special Olympians and their families there. Sheila Benham and Amanda Cooper of the Johnson County Autism Support Group Indiana had also arranged to have five of their members and their families there, too, along with several neighbors. It was quite a crowd! When they arrived at the group home and got out of Ron’s truck, everyone began chanting, “Open that garage door,” like they say “Move that bus” on Extreme Makeover Home Edition. And when the garage door was finally opened, there was the truck cab that Alex had dreamed of for so long!
Ruth (Alex’s mom) told me that the day Alex got his truck cab he set a good example for all of the other young people who were there. She hopes that they could see that dreams do come true, and maybe theirs could, too. On Alex’s first trip, he had his hero Alex Debogorski riding shotgun. It was the first of many trips that Alex will now be able to make inside a real truck cab, and not on a lawn mower! He even had Leland Martin playing on the radio.
Ron Huey has not only been on the giving end of something like this, but he’s been on the receiving end, too. When his wife Jan got sick five years ago, several people helped them and I am very happy to report that right now Ron said that Jan is doing great. Ron now annually holds a charity event called the Tower Tree Truck Classic in Greensburg, IN. All of the proceeds from the entry fees and donations go directly to local charities. This year, the charities were Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Children with Diabetes! The event was just held July 22 & 23 this year, and Carl Carstens of Rockwood was there to present Alex Jr. with a chrome shift lever for his cool new truck cab.
Also, I must say that I am very proud of our “Poetry in Motion” writer Trevor Hardwick for writing such a nice poem about Alex and his new truck cab. He has never met Alex in person, but his poem hit the nail on the head! We don’t usually tie our stories together, but it was cool that he did that for Alex this month. Great job, Trevor! I am sure Alex will love it.
Our thanks go out to everyone who donated money, parts and/or time to this project. Early in this article I mentioned the annual truck convoy that benefits Special Olympics. Over the years, this event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics. Held on various dates in September and October this year, these convoys occur all across the country. To find out more, visit www.specialolympics.org and then click on “A to Z Site Index” near the bottom of the page. From there, find “The World’s Largest Truck Convoy” and click it for a list of locations and exact dates. It’s been a few years since I was able to participate in one of these convoys, but if you can make it, the experience is well worth it!
The issue of autism is not going away, but it is being talked about more these days, and that is a good thing. I think this story shows just how much truckers are willing to jump in and make a difference. This young man, Alex, dreams of doing what we do every day, so it is great that the industry was able to come together and help make his dream (sort of) come true. I think the pictures say it all! Congratulations, Alex!!