Truck drivers celebrate 20 year anniversary of Truck Convoy for Special Olympics

Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 8:07 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Saturday at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds, it was about so much more than a truck show and celebrating the trucking industry. Truck drivers banded together for the 20th year to raise funds for the Special Olympics of South Dakota. The event that ran on both Friday and Saturday had its main event and the event in its namesake: a truck convoy. It was both a celebration of the present and a celebration of the past.

”Three years ago, the question was, ‘Were we going to have it?’” said Jessica Lambertz, a committee chair for the Truck Convoy for Special Olympics. “It was a country of shutdown, and we said, ‘We’re truckers. We didn’t get to shut down.’ Stuff still had to be delivered, and we needed a break, so we got to do it. Twenty years of being able to do this is amazing. It’s a milestone that most truck shows don’t get to see, and our partnership just grows stronger and stronger every year.”

It’s the most fun in a traffic jam you will ever have. Family and friends rode along or watched on the side of the road. Streets were blocked off, and law enforcement led the way as over 120 trucks of every size, shape and cargo load drove together, some driving with Special Olympic athletes on board.

Blue-collar truck drivers and Special Olympics athletes might not be a pairing you would expect, but the truckers and athletes form a bond.

“To see drivers cry when they get to help,” Lambertz described. “I had an amazing driver who got picked ‘athlete’s choice’ last year. He’s on our banners this year, and he is so proud of that. They [truck drivers] are so proud to be part of this community. The athletes love to see the truckers just as much as the truckers love to see the athletes. It means the world to each and every one of them.”

Dale Melin, a truck driver and owner of Dale Melin Trucking in Sioux Falls, has been part of the convoy event along with his dad and brother for nineteen of the event’s twenty years. He still remembers the time he got to have one of the athletes ride with him. It only deepens his passion for supporting and encouraging those with special needs.

“Everybody’s got a grandson, a son, a nephew, a cousin or whatever with special needs,” said Melin. “I have a cousin out in LA who is autistic. Just to know you’re helping them and you know, it’s just there. It’s just fun to help them. When you see the parents when the athletes get to ride with you in the trucks, the tears are there. They’re good people, and they’re seeing the kids have a good time.”

Andrew Saugstad is an athlete involved in bowling, swimming, track and field and equestrian. He said that his favorite is the javelin throw. He has been involved in Special Olympics for fifteen years, and in the last ten, he’s been able to take part in the convoy with one of his best friends, Bill Kilian. Kilian has been trucking for fifty years and currently drives for K & J Trucking in Sioux Falls. Andrew said that Kilian is ‘the best,’ and he loves Bill’s truck. His mom, Wanda Saugstad, said they have a special relationship.

“Bill is so kind and so gentle with Andrew,” Wanda explained. “He is the kindest person you’ll ever meet. Let’s him butt him with any questions. Andrew looks forward to this event every year.”

Andrew said the same.

“I’ve been hanging out with Bill and staying out of trouble,” Andrew chuckled. “I like to honk the horn. Because it makes everybody jump. I say ‘Hi, I’m Andrew, see you later.’ It’s awesome.”

Andrew is not alone. A symphony of honking horns echoed throughout the spacious parking lot as the drivers prepared to head out on their mission. It was friends having fun, just being themselves. Andrew made sure to add another horn sound to their collective song. Over the course of the day, he also added three more windshield wipers to his collection of wipers he gets from friendly truck drivers. Even before the raffle and auction inside the fairgrounds expo building, the event felt like a success.

“They might be the athletes’ best friends,” Lambertz said. “We’ve got some of them who are besties that they talk to each other outside of this event. And, yes, a trucker and an athlete are not normally what you would see, but truckers have the heart of gold, just as an athlete does. They mesh very well together.”

Hearts of gold drove trucks made of aluminum and steel to carry their most precious cargo to date.