Friday, October 23, 2009

‘Convoy for a Cure’ – it’s personal

After I finish writing this, I am heading to Willie’s Place in Carl’s Corner, TX, to participate in the first-ever U.S. “Convoy for a Cure” on Oct. 24.

OOIDA Life Member Cindy Stowe (pictured here) of Will’s Point, TX, has been planning the “Cure” convoy for months now, and I can’t wait to see it all come together. It’s for such a great and worthy cause – to raise money for breast cancer research.

Cindy was inspired to host a convoy after reading an article I wrote for Land Line in October 2008 about the first-ever all-female convoy, which was organized by OOIDA member Rachèle Champagne. And believe me, that first story wasn’t just an assignment for me, but a way to deal with – and heal from – my family’s own breast cancer battle.

I stumbled upon Rachèle’s idea to organize the first ever “Convoy for a Cure” to raise money for breast cancer research about a year and a half ago, just a few months after my big sister, Michelle, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And as anyone knows who has witnessed a family member or friend battle cancer, it is the most helpless feeling in the world.

During this time of helplessness, Rachèle’s idea for a “Cure” convoy gave me hope and a purpose. I could help spread the word about her event. Her initial convoy in 2008 raised more than $15,000 for breast cancer research.

In 2009, Rachèle inspired two other female truckers in Canada to organize convoys in their areas, raising more than $80,000. A total of five convoys have already been planned in Canada for next year.

And I have complete confidence in Cindy that her convoy is going to be amazing, too. After all, I can personally attest that nobody I have spoken to has been able to say no to Cindy once she’s told them what she’s doing and what the money is for. Everyone knows a family member or friend who has battled this disease.

So I will close for now, put on my pink and head out on my big journey to Texas for the convoy. So if you are in the area, come convoy with us; all truckers are welcome. And say hello to Cindy and to Rachèle, the “Cure” convoy founder.

I promise these women will inspire you. Oh, and don’t forget to wear pink!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Team Cummings

On Saturday, Oct. 24, a good friend of the trucking industry will try to walk at least a mile for a cause that is important to him and 46 million others known to be affected by arthritis. Ken Cummings is a guy many of us have known for years as a hard-working member of the Newport sales staff.

One of my favorite magazines – Editor & Publisher – once named him number one sales executive. Quite an honor.

Arthritis made it tough for him to trot around the truck shows and other industry events, but he regularly made the scene.

Ken has led a brutal battle with chronic arthritic gout, osteoarthritis-that led to a total knee replacement, as well as a type of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis. So walking a mile may not be a feat for most of us, but for Ken, it’s impressive.

I recently got a note from Ken about this walk, an event that will benefit the Arthritis Foundation, South Carolina chapter. Ken is 68 years old. He and his wife, Sue, live in Briarcliffe Acres, Myrtle Beach. They’ve been married 44 years and have two kids and five grandkids.

We also learned that Ken is a special honoree of this SC Arthritis Walk and his story is one that few of us really ever knew. That story was sent to us and I’ll share some of it with you here. Note: I am quoting freely from that material.

“It seems he was a hot-shot gifted athlete from Brooklyn, NY, where he attended both high school and college on basketball scholarships. He played baseball, too. His athletic dreams ended when early in the first year of college basketball, he bent down to tie a sneaker and he could not straighten up. For more than two years after the sneaker incident, Ken and his mom went from doctor to doctor in New York City with no diagnosis. After a while, it was suggested that perhaps that he was a hypochondriac. Finally, an arthritic specialist in New York City referred him to a rheumatologist who was able to make the proper diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis.”

According to the Foundation, very little was known about AS when he was diagnosed 46 years ago. They did know that it traditionally affected the first-born male, that it was passed on genetically, and it freezes or fuses your spine from the base of the spine traveling up thru the neck. It was extremely painful, restricting and uncomfortable as the disease/inflammation progressed up the spine. As the years went on with AS, Ken has developed limited range on motion between his spine and neck.

In a small percentage of AS patients, the disease – after being in remission for years – will reactivate. Four years ago, Ken fell into that very small percentage. After finally being correctly diagnosed once more, he has been treated with various drugs that have improved Ken’s balance and leg strength and improved his quality of life. It has also allowed him to go in the ocean and pool with his grandchildren and to play some golf which he was told he would never play again.

The Arthritis Foundation provides the funds for research that may allow doctors to gain more knowledge in order to better treat the 46 million people currently known to be affected by this disease. That’s why Ken is participating in the Myrtle Beach Arthritis Walk on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Broadway at the Beach.

The walk is one and/or three miles and no one has to walk any further then they can. Ken says two or three steps helps support the cause.

Check out and see what Team Cummings has accomplished.

On Saturday, we’ll be thinking about you, Ken!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the scene at Truck Show Latino

Last weekend, I was part of the OOIDA posse that left the nice 39-degree rainy weather in Grain Valley, MO, for the Truck Show Latino in balmy Pomona, CA, where it was 92.

One of the first people I ran into was OOIDA Life Member Frank Pangburn, hiking briskly down the aisle in his mango Crocs, arms full of T-shirts and paperwork. Inside the Fairplex-Pomona, the Truck Show Latino was taking shape, and Frank’s job was to make a success of the Best of the West truck competition. His wife Diana was folding “Truckin’ for Kids” T-shirts and they took a break to fill me in on what was up with the “Best of the West” truck contest. You can read about that on this Web site’s daily news.

Our OOIDA booth and our First Observer booths were in good spots and enjoyed steady traffic, which meant I could cover the show and return to that home base frequently. Joe Rajkovacz had driven the OOIDA tour truck out to the West Coast where he was joined by Bill Rode for a few days. For the truck show, Joe took the “Spirit” through the truck wash and coughed up $68 to make it look good. It was one of the few trucks inside the building with a trailer. And while others might have been more, shall we say, “lavishly” chromed – it was a favorite. Truckers, wives, kids, grandmas, they all took turns being photographed with the show trucks, and the “Spirit” was right in there.

Joe, Tom Weakley, Mike Schermoly, Doreen Weakley and I met so many people. You can read all you want about trucking in California and how confusing the regs are and how unsettling the economy is, but you really don’t realize how overwhelming that is until you get face-to-face and hear it firsthand from the drivers. The industry is awash with misinformation.

While most spoke both English and Spanish, we appreciated having the assistance of our OOIDA Member Maria Escott and her daughter, Aurora. They were an important part of our team, especially when we talked to a driver who was more comfortable speaking Spanish about a complicated topic like lease arrangements.

If you think you have questions, the truckers in California have a thousand more.

The California Air Resources Board was there and truckers lined up three deep at their booth to ask questions. Les Simonson, manager of Heavy Duty Diesel Enforcement, told me the main question was about DPFs and retrofit. Another CARB guy, Ching Chun Yang, said many questions were about the TRU program, which has an upcoming deadline.

One of the highlights for me was being there when the Carnegie Institute awarded the medal of heroism to OOIDA Member Jorge Orozco-Sanchez. As most of you know, he was the Goodyear Highway Hero 2008. He and his wife, Susie, and two children, Robert and Lorena, live in Firestone, CO. On Friday, they were guests aboard the Goodyear blimp (yes, kids, too). On Saturday at noon, the Carnegie medal was awarded in a ceremony hosted by Goodyear.