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Trucking for Special Olympics
By Molly Barari
You’ve heard of Special Olympics, and hopefully after being featured as The Motor Market annual September cover article for years, you’re also familiar with the South Dakota Convoy. If you are a new reader, read on to find out what this is all about.
Truckers from across the state and region get together to drive their big rigs on a designated route in an effort to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit and celebrate the trucking industry. Special Olympics athletes even get to ride with the drivers. The event is the World’s Largest Truck Convoy and Truck Show, and it’s taking place in South Dakota in September.
The Convoy events are planned in Sioux Falls at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds from September 22-23, and in Rapid City at Black Hills Harley-Davidson from September 29-30. After each drive, the drivers and athletes are joined by family members, friends and law enforcement personnel for lunch. Each event will have a truck show (including a light show), auction and awards presentation.
The Brian and Jennifer Kjergaard family of Rowena, S.D., have been instrumental in helping the South Dakota Truck Convoy grow larger over the years. They’re also involved in other Special Olympics South Dakota events across the state. The Kjergaard family’s sincere dedication hasn’t gone unrecognized. Brian and Jennifer – along with their four children, Caleb (15), Sean (13), Marilyn (9) and Stacy (3) – were named Special Olympics South Dakota’s Family of the Year in 2017.
The Kjergaards became involved in the Truck Convoy eight years ago. “I have a great company that I work for, Helmbolt Trucking, that supports our involvement with Special Olympics,” said Brian. “Then six years ago, our kids started donating pennies to Special Olympics, which inspired us to do some donations and volunteering. That’s when [organizers] Marty Ellis and Todd Bradwisch asked us to be on the Convoy committee two years ago, and we agreed.” After that milestone, the Kjergaard family devoted even more time to volunteering with Special Olympics South Dakota and anywhere else they could help with the athletes.
For Brian, being involved in trucking and the Special Olympics hits close to home. His father was a trucker who died in a semi when he was seven years old.
“I have always loved trucks,” he admitted. “Plus, we have family that are Special Olympians.”
Jennifer said their family has grown closer as they’ve come together to support the cause. “It’s a blessing to be a part of this organization,” she said. “It’s opened our eyes and hearts to the athletes.”
Special Olympics South Dakota has over 2,100 athletes statewide – a number that grows daily. Helping the athletes lead more fulfilling lives is the main reason that the Truck Convoy rallies each year. Each truck registration for the Convoy is $100, plus various trucking companies donate money or goods to the event. Additionally, the Convoy committee collects other donations from companies or individuals who want to help.
The Convoy auction is another way that funds are raised for Special Olympics. Some of the items that will be auctioned off this year include an autographed Lee Greenwood guitar, a Loretta Lynn print, an Aspen dental package, a Vikings autograph, a Ryne Sandberg autograph, and a quilt including this year’s Convoy shirt, as well as the past 14 years’ shirts. The prestigious title of “Lead Truck” will also be awarded through the auction.
One hundred percent of the funds raised through the Convoy events benefit the Law Enforcement Torch Run – Special Olympics South Dakota’s largest grassroots fundraising campaign.
The Convoy started as a local event in Florida in 2001 as a celebration of the trucking industry and its support for Special Olympics. The event has evolved into an international movement, with Convoys in over 24 states and four Canadian provinces annually.
According to the South Dakota Convoy’s website, this Convoy began in Sioux Falls and Rapid City in 2003 with an event being held in both locations for the first two years. In 2005, Sioux Falls continued its Convoy and has been going strong ever since. In 2014, the Rapid City Convoy was restarted and is now growing stronger than ever. The South Dakota Convoys, since 2003, have had a total of 1,393 trucks involved and have raised over $532,000 for the South Dakota Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
For the Kjergaard family, being involved in the Convoy and Special Olympics has made their lives more fulfilling. “When we aren’t busy volunteering at the Special Olympics events, which our children really enjoy, they also like to do sports,” said Jennifer. “My husband likes to garden, and I raise chickens and many other animals.”
In other words, the Kjergaard family spreads their positive and nurturing energy wherever the wind takes them.
To register, become involved as a sponsor, or donate an auction or goody bag item, visit www.sdconvoy.org or call the Special Olympics South Dakota office at 605-331-4117. You can also watch Facebook and Twitter for updates.