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Truckers give rides, but get good feeling from the Wish Kids

June 06, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Guy Morningstar of St. Thomas, Pa., dried off the chrome on the front of his 18-wheeler Saturday morning so the banner proclaiming "Wish Child Aboard" could be attached with duct tape.

Helping him was his daughter, Amanda, 11, who lost the lower part of her right leg to cancer several months ago. She is finished with chemotherapy, but broke the upper part of the leg recently, forcing her to use crutches.

After her father picked her up and put her aboard, Amanda rode in the big truck Saturday in the second annual Franklin County Truck Convoy, benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation chapter in Franklin County. Fourteen other local "Wish Kids" and several family members rode with truckers in the convoy.

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A national organization, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses or conditions.

Amanda's wish was a computer, which she and her brother use for school reports and to talk with friends, she said.

Guy Morningstar has been driving in Make-A-Wish convoys for five years after a friend in Bedford, Pa., introduced him to the event.

"It's a nice thing to do, when you see what all it does for the kids," Morningstar said. "It's the highlight of my year."

Rich Bell of Chambersburg, organizer of the convoy, said last year's event, which drew 12 big rigs, raised $7,000.

This year, 32 truckers signed up. Each of them paid $50 and then raised pledges.

Saturday night, Bell said officials were still counting the amount raised, but said the total will top last year's total. The event is sponsored by the Cumberland Valley Dental Society.

Trucks festooned with balloons and banners pulled out of Chambersburg Mall with the blasting of air horns, and wound slowly through the small municipalities of southern Franklin County.

Leading the convoy was the husband-and-wife team of Ron and Margaret-Mary Shellito of Chambersburg, who drive for Federal Express. The Shellitos earned the honor by raising more than $1,000 last year, the most money in the first convoy.

"We do it because we love the kids. It's important to give back to the kids," Margaret-Mary Shellito said. Driving in the convoy was "terrific," she added.

People along the route sat on their porches or stood outside in the rain to wave to the Wish Kids. Children in pajamas waved, cheered and pumped their arms up and down to signal drivers to honk the horn. At many lights, police stopped traffic so the convoy could pass.

Rebecca Leonard, 15, and her grandmother, Charlotte Leonard of Fayetteville, Pa., rode with trucker Richard Stover, who drives for Dot Foods in Williamsport. It was Becky's first ride in a truck, and "she was overwhelmed," Charlotte Leonard said. "She got to pull the horn herself."

"She loved it," Stover said. "That made my day when I saw she was having a ball."

As her wish, Rebecca will take a trip to Disney World.

Shane Geedy, a Wish Kid from Chambersburg, was taking his third ride in a big truck.

"He loved it," said his grandmother, Ronelie Geedy. Shane's wish was a trip to Nashville, Tenn.

Ann Waltman, of Make-A-Wish of south-central Pennsylvania, said the chapter granted 15 wishes last year in Franklin County, and 13 so far this year. Two local children are waiting for pools, another took a Caribbean cruise and several children visited Disney World.

Children and truckers bantered on the CB radios during the 2 1/2 hour drive. Despite the rain, slow progress, and cars cutting in, one of the truckers was overheard to say, "I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather be right now."

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