Thursday, November 21, 2013

Logging truckers pull together to honor teenage cancer victim

Now I’m not saying I agree with it, but I think we can all acknowledge that outside the industry, truckers generally aren’t stereotyped as soft-touches. Far from it, in fact. But those of us who’ve spent any length of time around the trucking community know that when it comes to lending a helping hand for a worthy cause, truckers are usually among the first to roll out.

Case in point: A group of logging truckers turned a 15-year-old girl’s tragic death into a celebration of her love of life with a convoy that brought truckers from all over the Pacific Northwest together.

Hannah Williams, of Vancouver, Wash., was diagnosed with pineoblastoma in 2010, a rare and malignant form of brain cancer. She passed away on Oct. 23. A celebration of her life was staged at the Clark County Fairgrounds in southern Washington on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event was highlighted by two separate convoys – one from the south in Eugene, Ore., the other from Tacoma, Wash., converging on the fairgrounds.

Her stepfather Jeff Roberts, a longtime logger, spread Hannah’s story throughout the West Coast logging community. Since her diagnosis, Hannah had undergone radiation therapy, brain surgery, and a host of other treatments to combat the disease.

Local news reports estimate as many as 150 truckers participated in the convoy, which concluded with a barbecue at the fairgrounds. Many of the trucks were reportedly sporting purple ribbons or other purple mementos in tribute to Hannah. Purple was her favorite color. One area trucker even dedicated his purple truck to her, renaming it “Hannah” before she passed.

Proceeds from the convoy and from the sale of shirts, hats and purple ribbons are going to help Hannah’s family in their time of need.  

A Facebook page “Hauling for Hannah AKA Hannah’s Heroes” has posted pictures and other updates about the girl’s courageous struggle. A story in the local paper mentions a Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii the girl and her mother got to take shortly before her passing.

In a newscast on KPTV-12 in Oregon, one of the convoy organizers, log trucker Ryan Tatham summed it up best.

“Everybody thinks we’re rough, tough, gruff loggers, but it’s brought a lot of guys to tears,” he said. “I’ve had to hold back tears.”

In the same report, the girl’s mother, Tyana Williams, talked about how the log trucking community identified with the toughness of her daughter’s spirit in the face of a terminal disease.

“The trucking and logging community is a tough community, and I think they appreciated how tough that girl was and how much she gave,” she said.

Sure, truckers are tough. But they can also be amazingly tender-hearted, and the outpouring of support for this young girl and her family is just another in a long string of examples. Truckers convoy to raise money for Special Olympics, donate to our troops through campaigns like Truckers For Troops, help out our pets through organizations like Operation Roger, and look out for their own through charities like The St. Christopher Fund.

Saturday’s convoy and celebration of life for Hannah Williams made news in papers and TV stations in both Oregon and Washington, and it’s certainly a story worth telling. But it shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who know about the spirit of generosity in the trucking community to see them be captivated by this story.