South Dakota truck convoy raises nearly $60K for Special Olympics

Truckers in South Dakota did their part recently to help support Special Olympics.

On Sept. 16-17, truckers from across the country gathered at the WH Lyon Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls, SD for the 2022 South Dakota Truck Convoy for Special Olympics. The convoy had 107 trucks participate, raising nearly $60,000 for Special Olympics South Dakota.

“I thought that this year’s convoy was a huge success,” said Jill Kvanli, Law Enforcement Torch Run Event Manager with Special Olympics South Dakota. “We were able to have more Special Olympics South Dakota athletes out at the Convoy this year than in the previous couple of years. It was great seeing them interact with the drivers and be able to see the convoy.”

Since its inception in 2003, a total of 2,078 trucks have participated in the South Dakota convoys. This year’s convoy took a new route. Kvanli says the change was welcomed by the residents of Sioux Falls.

“We got calls from citizens in Sioux Falls saying how excited they were to see the Convoy drive past their homes this year,” she said.

Best in Show winner 'Cherry Pie' is owned by Kate Whiting.
This truck is named “Cherry Pie.” Owner Kate Whiting won best of show with it. PJ Brink won the Athletes’ Choice and light show top award. Colter Deutsch won the Participants’ Choice award. (Photo by Marty Ellis)

Marty Ellis, the driver of OOIDA’s Spirit of the American Trucker tour truck, is a co-organizer of the event.

Ellis said the Association was well represented at the convoy. OOIDA life member Jerry Seaman kicked off the event by singing the national anthem. Other members helped to collect donation items for goodie bags and the silent auction.

In total, the convoys raised nearly $800,000 for the South Dakota Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Kvanli says the athletes love being able to see all the trucks.

“The relationship between the athletes and the drivers is an extremely special and important one,” she said. “Many of the athletes look up to the drivers and are excited to be able to participate in this event. Seeing the inside of a truck may be common for drivers, but for many of our athletes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience – or once-a-year. We have some athletes that are hooked!”

Light Show photo by Marty Ellis

Charlie Putzier won the poker tournament, a fundraising component of the South Dakota Truck Convoy for Special Olympics
Charlie Putzier won a stay at one of the casinos out in Deadwood with food and free play for winning the poker tournament at the South Dakota Truck Convoy for Special Olympics. (Photo by Marty Ellis)

That bond has helped raise funds for Special Olympians not just in South Dakota, but across the country. Truck Convoys for Special Olympics are held annually in 24 states. While it was a busy couple of days for Ellis, he said the time he got to spend with the Special Olympic athletes was special to him.

“I got to spend a few minutes with some athletes who have been coming for years,” he said. “That made my heart feel good.” LL

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