It started with a 480-strong truck convoy through Australia’s capital and ended with a performance by Mental as Anything. Tamara Whitsed attended Canberra’s 2018 Rise Above Cancer Convoy
480 trucks take part in Rise Above Cancer Convoy
AMASSIVE $410,000 was raised at Canberra’s Rise Above Cancer Convoy, which attracted about 480 trucks on April 8. The trucks assembled at Beard near Queanbeyan early on the Sunday morning and travelled through Canberra before lining up for a truck display at Exhibition Park (EPIC), Mitchell. The convoy attracted about 200 motorbikes and 480 trucks. Chief executive officer of Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief, Melissa Gardiner, was excited to see the lineup area at Beard full of trucks. “We never usually fill it,” she says. Generous Elvin Group bid a record $67,128.49 to be the first truck in the convoy. The company’s general manager, Chris Rutledge, led the trucks in a Kenworth 10-wheel agitator.
Following Elvin’s Kenworth were trucks owned by the other top bidders: Icon Water; PFD Food Services, Fyshwick; the Illawarra Convoy crew; TJS Transport; Innaimo Transport; DJ Homes; Gungahlin Concrete and Specialised Towing.
A total of 29 Elvin trucks took part in the convoy. Schmidt Quarries, Holcim, TJS Transport and Innaimo were among the many other companies which polished large numbers of trucks for the procession. Many of the trucks displayed banners in memory of people, including young children, who have lost their lives to cancer.
$410K for cancer
Bidding for the lead truck was a major part of the fundraising effort. A large contribution from a secret donor helped reach the new $410,000 record.
“Without the trucking community there wouldn’t be a convoy.”
The money will be put to good use by Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief. “We pay for chemotherapy, medications, food and fuel, electricity and gas and dietary supplements,” Melissa says.
“There aren’t many charities out there that do that. Most of them are all research. We have over 800 patients and we spend $600,000 a year on those patients.
“Without the trucking community there wouldn’t be a convoy. We wouldn’t raise that $400,000 and we wouldn’t be able to support as many people as we do. So [trucks] are our bread and butter I suppose.”
Melissa says the convoy will create awareness about the services which Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief offers to residents of the Canberra region. The event will also draw attention to the charity’s new name. “We used to be the Cancer Support Group but just got confused with other charities. That’s why we changed it. People get to know your name and I suppose the convoy is a good way to get it out there.”
Melissa helped revive the Canberra convoy in 2012. She recalls the teething problems they experienced that first year. “We had no idea. We had the whole of Mitchell just totally blocked off to anyone. And we had it on the Saturday. No one complained – not one person.”
This year, hundreds of regular supporters helped the convoy run smoothly. “I suppose we’ve just got it down pat and we don’t change it. The trucks know to line up at Beard. This year it was so easy, they just all drove in there themselves. They knew where to park. The route is just perfect because we have people along the sides of the roads.” And EPIC is proving an ideal venue for the truck display and fair, which was attended by about 2000 people of all ages.
The fair, carnival rides, food and live music by popular performers are part of the winning formula. This year, Mental as Anything entertained the crowd. Mental fans enjoyed the band from the grandstand, and the music could be heard throughout the fair.
Planning is already underway for the 2019 convoy, which will take place on Sunday, April 7. Melissa says it takes a full 12 months to organise the annual event. “There are only three of us in the office and we do most of the organising. Plus we look after the patients.”
The assistance of volunteers is vital to the convoy’s success. Melissa says many of the volunteers have been affected by cancer in some way. “There was a couple of patients there that had finished their treatment and gone through their battle. They were there volunteering.”
Elvin leads the way
Driving the lead truck in the Rise Above Cancer Convoy was a dream come true for Elvin Group general manager Chris Rutledge.
Chris drove Elvin’s Kenworth 10-wheel agitator with his son Cameron Rutledge in the passenger seat. They sounded the horn for the thousands who lined the streets between Beard and Mitchell. Chris described the experience as “very touching” because the event was raising funds for such a worthy cause.
Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief helps cancer patients of all ages, and Chris is especially mindful of the work it does for children with cancer. “The young kids need a chance to have a life. The money is spent locally around the area. It’s always good to see that happen.”
He was pleased to see so many families and young children enjoying the convoy and fair. “They always like to see the trucks and have a great day.”
Chris is grateful to the many people who helped him achieve his goal of leading the convoy in an Elvin truck.
“I’ve always wanted the lead and we’ve always run second or third over the years. I thought I’d better get it before I retire.”
The Elvin family kicked off Chris’s fundraising effort with a donation of $25,000. His workmates, suppliers and other supporters also made generous donations.
In previous years, Chris’s friend Terry Stewart from TJS Transport has bid against Elvin, but this year Terry contributed to Elvin’s fundraising to help Chris achieve his dream.
Chris has worked in the concrete industry since 1970 and has been general manager at Elvin for 18 years. Elvin Group was founded by Leonie Elvin and her late husband Tom and is continued today by their sons Vic and Craig. The company has two concrete plants and 40 trucks supplying the local area. Chris says his retirement is still a while away – maybe 2019 or 2020.
To stay up to date about the 2019 Rise Above Cancer Convoy, visit convoy.riseabovecbr.org.au or like the Rise Above Cancer Convoy Facebook page.
Above: Allan Williams gives the convoy the thumbs up. He drove Steve Smarlamakis’ 2008 Kenworth 908 in the convoy. Inspired by a young cancer patient, Allan has taken part in five convoys
Left: Chris Barry proudly displays his 1961 Mack B61
Above L to R: General manager of Elvin Group, Chris Rutledge, and his grandson Zac. Chris was determined to win lead truck before he retires; The Elvin family - Abby, Vic, Gus, Craig, Dane, Zac and Leonie. They were proud the company’s bid for lead...
Left: The Illawarra Convoy crew’s generosity extends to the ACT. Their donation to Rise for Cancer earned them a place in the lead pack Below: Tony Day, operations manager for Tony Innaimo Transport with some of the 17 Innaimo trucks lined up at EPIC
Right: This DAF was one of many trucks from the Gungahlin fleet taking part in the convoy
Below: Trucks from the fleets of Specialized Towing and DJ Homes. Both companies were among the top bidders at the lead truck auction Opposite bottom: Icon Water’s Scania. The company was second-highest bidder for the lead truck
Top: About 480 trucks lined up at EPIC after the convoy
Above L to R: Melissa Gardiner, Chief executive officer of Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief; Schmidt Quarries’ spotless orange trucks stood out; The convoy included about 200 motorbikes
Second top row L to R: The convoy passes through Campbell on its way to EPIC; The banner on MJ Rowles’ Mack reminds us what the convoy is about
Bottom right: This Kenworth was one of many from the Abletts Transport fleet