UP FOR THE challenge
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