As most may or may not know, the shows I attend are planned months ahead of time. For the most part, I am prepared for what to expect at a trucking event, but this one was definitely very different. I hadn’t found out I was attending this event until a couple days prior to driving to Charleston, IL (I was originally just going to visit friends Amber Furry, Bryan “Foxfire Cummins” and his wife Claudia to do research for a potential article). What was in store for me was an outpouring of truckers and supportive communities to bring a Make-A-Wish Convoy to Illinois with hopes of fulfilling wishes.
Charleston, IL is home to Eastern Illinois University and is a tight-knit community comprised of small-town country values and great hospitality. Neighboring city, Mattoon, IL is home to Sid and Joy Eggers, founders of the Coles County Convoy benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sid and Joy recently moved back to Mattoon after several years residing in Pennsylvania.
While living in Pennsylvania, they were able to experience first-hand the Franklin County Truck Convoy in Chambersburg, PA. They were surprised to find out the state of Illinois did not have a truck convoy, and through more investigation with trying to find out why, they were advised to start one. After contact with Make-A-Wish in Chicago was made, assistance from the President and Vice President of the Franklin County Truck Convoy and the support of both Mattoon and Charleston communities, the process of planning the first annual Coles County Convoy began in September 2018.
For those that may not know, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with critical illnesses to provide joy and hope in their lives and bring smiles to their faces. In order for a convoy to maintain the support of Make-A-Wish Illinois, the event must fill out a contract with a commitment to raise a certain amount of money. Since it was the first year, the Coles County Convoy committed to raising $5,000.
The inaugural convoy took place on Saturday, June 29th at the Coles County Fairgrounds. The registration opened at 8:00 AM with wagon rides for spectators, barrel wagon rides for the kids plus the band “The Kick” donated their time and talent to play from 10:30 AM to noon. It was quite a sight to see all the trucks as they were staged around the track.
At around 11:30 AM the auction started, which included auctioning off the first, second and third place in the lineup for the convoy. The auction concluded around 1:00 PM and the trucks began leaving the grounds at 2:00 to begin the convoy, making their way from Charleston to Mattoon and back again. The lead spot in the convoy went to Tim Drake of Drake Trucking for $1,050, while the second spot went to Tom Neimeyer of Neimeyer Farms for $550 and the third to Dennis Wright of R&W Trucking for $1,550! The Grand Marshall was Rural King, a local farm and home store.
For this inaugural year, 148 trucks registered for the event and about 123 of those trucks actually participated in the convoy (some just stayed parked). It was pretty awesome to see this display for a great cause, and I was lucky enough to shoot the trucks in the convoy from two different locations along their almost 26-mile route.
Special thanks goes out to Neimeyer Kubotas for the donation of golf carts and ATVs, Coles County Fairgrounds’ directors for unanimously supporting this convoy, donating the fairgrounds and waiving the charge of the convoy’s share of the electric bill, and to the president and vice president of the Franklin County Truck Convoy out of Pennsylvania for their support and guidance. Not to be left out, all the volunteers and board of directors of the Coles County Convoy for their hours of time and dedication throughout the entire planning and execution process. I enjoyed the opportunity to see this all take place, giving me another reason to be proud of the industry I am a part of and so passionate about. Thank you to everyone who attended!
Remember the commitment they made to raise at least $5,000? The first annual Coles County Convoy raised over $34,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois! This money will allow 3-5 wish recipients to make their dreams come true!! Mark your calendars for the second annual Coles County Convoy being held again at the Coles County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Let’s make the second convoy even better than the first so they can continue fulfilling wishes.