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Truckers give rides to benefit families of Make-A-Wish

June 05, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Thirty 18-wheelers festooned with balloons pulled out Saturday from Chambersburg Mall with a great blowing of horns. Many of them had large banners reading "WISH CHILD ON BOARD."

The truckers, all professional drivers, volunteered their time to take Make-A-Wish children and their families on a ride through Franklin County.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with serious medical conditions, and the annual convoy helps to fund their wishes.

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Truckers pay a $50 entry fee and raise pledges. The event brought in more than $8,000 last year, organizers said.

Shane Geedy, 13, of Chambersburg, and his grandmother, Ronelie Geedy, rode with Joe Stallman of McConnellsburg, Pa., a trucker participating in the convoy for the first time. Stallman works for JLG Industries in McConnellsburg.

"Shane loves it when they blow the horn," Ronelie Geedy said.

Taylor Myers, 3, of Fayetteville, Pa., enjoyed her first truck ride, holding a stuffed dog named Otis. She was accompanied by her father, Eric. Taylor has cystic fibrosis and is on a regimen of medication and breathing treatments.

The Hepfer family of Chambersburg also took a truck ride. Kim and Jim Hepfer, along with Rhiannah, 6, and Jimmy, 3, rode with Vic Desrosiers, an independent trucker from Elizabethville, Pa. Rhiannah was diagnosed with a form of Ewing's sarcoma in 2003, and received 8 1/2 months of chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation.

The Make-A-Wish foundation gave the family a trip to Disney World in January 2004. Rhiannah is doing very well, her mother said, and recently completed kindergarten at Cumberland Valley Christian School.

Taking his first truck ride was Damon Bryan, 4, of Shippensburg, Pa. Holding his son in the cab of a truck, Darren Bryan said that Damon's wish was for a pop-up camper, which the family received from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Damon has cerebral palsy.

The truckers volunteer their time because they enjoy being with the children, according to Eric Forrester, volunteer with the local Make-A-Wish chapter.

"Every year, we get more and more trucks," Forrester said. "One guy will do it, then tell his trucking buddies how much fun it was."

Both the truck rides and the larger wishes include the whole family, he added.

"We try to make everyone part of the wish," Forrester said. "If there's a Disney trip, the whole family is included, and everyone is treated equally. It gives some normalcy for a family when everything is abnormal, when one child needs so much of the family's time and care."

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