Trucker Buddy International honored five of its participants as Outstanding Trucker Buddies at a press conference at the Mid-America Trucking Show on Friday, March 28.
The drivers are connected to a diverse group of schools: One Trucker Buddy's class is across the Atlantic in Saint-Malo, France. The teacher says the reports of what seem like everyday occurrences are almost exotic and have encouraged students to improve their English skills.
Another driver told how his class is in a poor town in Kansas, and many of the students are part of single-parent families. The students regard him as their best friend and, in some cases, as a kind of stepfather.
Now in its 21st year, TBI has helped educate more than 1 million elementary school children about trucking – and often about life – by connecting the classes with dedicated, professional and caring truckers.
The drivers named as Outstanding Trucker Buddies were:
- Jim Stinemates, who corresponds with New Century School in Verona, Wis.
- Bob Cravens, whose students are at Liberty Elementary School in Rocky Ford, Colo.
- Matt Slovack, whose class is at Lincoln Irving School, in Moline, Ill.
- Fred Sweetwood, whose class is in Marais des Cygnes Valley Elementary in Quenemo, Kan.
- Linda Caffee, whose cards and stories fascinate students at College Chateaubriand in Saint-Malo, France.
Stinemates said the experience with TBI inspired him to send his letters to family and friends, detailing life on the road as well as his wife's encounters as she rescues feral cats.
Cravens has had the same teacher for 18 years; some of the students he had at the start now have their own children who are second-generation Trucker Buddy participants. He encourages kids to get involved in their communities, from visiting nursing home residents to adopting pets from the pound.
Slovack is deeply involved with Boy Scouting as well as TBI, and teaches trucking and transportation merit badges. He said some 200 Boy Scouts will be at MATS on Saturday to learn about the industry and to work toward their badges.
Sweetwood got choked up talking about how much the admiration and affection of the challenged children in his class means to him, and how he tries to bring extras to them when he visits. For some of the kids, his gifts of pencils and erasers are the first new writing implements they've ever had.
Caffee's teacher found out about TBI via message boards, and represents one of several European schools that correspond with the faraway truckers. The children are constantly astonished at how far American truckers drive compared with the short distances in Europe.
Also honored at the meeting was Mark Lothorp, as the year's Outstanding Trucker Buddy Ambassador. The ambassadors help represent the organization at industry events, extending the reach of TBI, which has only two full-time employees.
For more information about the Trucker Buddy Program, visit www.truckerbuddy.org.