UP FOR THE chal­lenge

Deals on Wheels - - TRUCK SHOWS -

Larsen’s Truck Sales, in its role as ma­jor spon­sor of the Alexan­dra Truck, Ute & Rod Show, is well known for show­cas­ing an im­pres­sive ar­ray of prime movers in its reg­u­lar po­si­tion out­side the charm­ing Alexan­dra Ho­tel.

This year, how­ever, Larsen’s had some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent on show, a Western Star 4800FXB, which was there to be won for any­one with a spare $100.

A fund-rais­ing ini­tia­tive be­tween Larsen’s Truck Sales and Penske Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles, monies raised in the Western Star raf­fle will go to Teen Chal­lenge Vic­to­ria.

Neil Meyer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Teen

Chal­lenge Vic­to­ria and him­self a for­mer truck owner-driver, says the idea for the Western Star fund-raiser came about through a ca­sual meet­ing with Dave Larsen.

“As a young man, David ac­tu­ally did some train­ing with Teen Chal­lenge when it first be­gan here in Mel­bourne,” Neil ex­plains. “He used to go and talk to peo­ple on the streets about their lives and guide them to­wards a chance with Teen Chal­lenge.

“So he’s been friends of Teen Chal­lenge for well over 30 years.”

Through Teen Chal­lenge Vic­to­ria, Dave and Neil have known each other for around a decade.

“He’s al­ways shown a lot of in­ter­est and sup­port,” Neil says. “I just tend to call in and have a cof­fee when I’m driv­ing past and talk to him about what we’re do­ing.

“We were just talk­ing about some fund-rais­ing stuff and he said, ‘How would you like to raf­fle a Western Star?’”

Dave promptly called Ran­dall Sey­more, Bris­bane-based pres­i­dent of Penske Trans­porta­tion Group In­ter­na­tional, who was

equally en­thu­si­as­tic about as­sist­ing Team Chal­lenge and its pro­gram of help­ing young peo­ple strug­gling with truck ad­dic­tion.

Teen Chal­lenge Vic­to­ria’s drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre has been based in Kyabram for the past 35 years. How­ever, Neil says Teen Chal­lenge orig­i­nally started in 1958 in New York City.

“It be­gan as an out­reach for young peo­ple on the streets of New York, and it be­came so suc­cess­ful that it’s just spread all over the world.

“So it’s the 60th an­niver­sary in Wash­ing­ton DC this year,” he says.

Through its cen­tre in Kyabram, the fa­cil­ity of­fers a 12 month live-in pro­gram.

“We run a num­ber of so­cial en­ter­prises as part of our pro­gram, so that the guys get some real work ex­pe­ri­ence,” Neil says. “They are re­quired to do some aca­demic work so that they ac­tu­ally start to get their brain work­ing again, and re­ac­ti­vate the ma­tur­ing process.

“A lot of these guys, when they start tak­ing drugs they stop ma­tur­ing emo­tion­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally and all the rest of it.

“And we’ve got a re­la­tion­ship with the Cor­rec­tions Of­fice and so on. If we take a young fella into court and he’s gen­uine about en­gag­ing our pro­gram, the mag­is­trate won’t send him to jail, they’ll let him come and have a shot at re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion – ev­ery time.”

Neil’s truck­ing ex­pe­ri­ence came about in the mid-1990s as an in­di­rect re­sult of gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to change the tar­iff laws.

“Around 160,000 Vic­to­ri­ans lost their jobs that year when they an­nounced all the changes.

“We had a cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness based in Healesville for a long time and it pretty much shut down man­u­fac­tur­ing in Aus­tralia at that time,” he re­calls.

To earn a liv­ing, Neil bought a twin-steer UD rigid, run­ning up and down the high­way be­tween Mel­bourne and Syd­ney de­liv­er­ing of­fice fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing chairs for the swim­ming pool arena at the 2000 Olympics.

“I did that for a year or so and I thought ‘that’s enough!’” he says.

Neil’s per­cep­tion of the cur­rent truck­ing in­dus­try is one of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and tech­no­log­i­callyad­vanced equip­ment.

He points to a nearby bright red B 61 Mack Ther­mo­dyne in the Larsen’s precinct. “That’s what they used to bang up and down the high­way in,” he says.

“It would have been a dif­fer­ent story to what we’re look­ing at here with the Western Star.”

The Western Star raf­fle will be drawn at Larsens’ Truck Sales premises in Dan­de­nong on De­cem­ber 14 this year.

“We’ll put on a truck show for the day and some lucky bas­tard will take a new truck home for Christ­mas,” Dave smiles.

At the show he es­ti­mated that around $30,000 to $40,000 worth of tick­ets had al­ready been sold in merely a cou­ple of days.

“There’s 10,000 tick­ets at $100 so we’re hop­ing to raise a mil­lion dol­lars for Teen Chal­lenge over the next six months. So it will make a huge dif­fer­ence to their or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he says.

In the mean­time, the Western Star will be mak­ing pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ances through­out Vic­to­ria and NSW dur­ing the next few months, in­clud­ing tak­ing in a few V8 Su­per­car rounds, and the Castle­maine Truck Show in Novem­ber.

“We’ve or­gan­ised the truck and now we want to take a back step,” Dave says.

“It’s all about Teen Chal­lenge at the end of the day.”

The Western Star raf­fle tick­ets can be bought on­line at www.teen­chal­lenge.com. au/truck­raf­fle2018.

Teen Chal­lenge Vic­to­ria ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Neil Meyer and the Western Star 4800FXB on show at Alexan­dra

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