Support from kind-hearted truckies for a surprise birthday convoy for a young Hamilton boy is on a roll - with at least 40 drivers now signing up.
And some of the truckies who will line up their big rigs in this weekend’s surprise convoy are set to travel more than 120km to take part.
Oliver Johnson, 7, is obsessed with trucks, and his mother, Katherine, posted on Facebook offering $50 to anyone willing to take him for a ride in their truck for his birthday. Katherine said Oliver was feeling lonely and hoped a truck ride would make him smile.
Since the social media call, support from truck drivers has surged.
The initial ride along request, has now seen dozens of truckies offer up their big rigs to form a very special birthday convoy for Ollie this weekend.
“Ollie knows every single name of every single truck and every single truck company. He gets the trucking magazine every month,” Katherine said.
“All he wants to do is be a truck driver. He is just obsessed.”
Katherine hoped just one truck driver would take up her offer, but Hart Haulage owner Barry Hart thought he could do better than that and began planning a truck convoy just for Oliver.
Hart said 40 truck drivers had since signed on to join the convoy, with several travelling down from Auckland. The truck drivers were volunteering their time and covering their own costs of travel, which Hart said was “amazing”.
“Every one these truckies that are doing this, and there are probably 10 trucks at least that are coming from Auckland, those guys, it will cost them $500-600 to get that truck down there, do their thing and go away, and not one of them is asking for anything.”
The details of the convoy were still being finalised, including around traffic management, but the plan was to pick Oliver up from his house on Sunday morning and travel to a location where he can check out the other trucks and meet the truck drivers.
“I just saw that there was a kid who didn’t feel like he had friends and didn’t feel like he had a community around him,” Hart said.
“I wanted to make sure that, and I would like to hope that every kid knows, that there is a community and people out there that will back them and stand beside them.”
After Oliver’s situation was shared on Facebook, a woman in the South Island donated a birthday cake for his big day while others in the community have asked how they could help.
“Our thing is just about trying to help a community, help kids, or even adults, who are just suffering and if a truck can make them smile … well, I’ve got 12 of them, so let’s see what we can do.”
Hart became emotional when asked about his industry’s response to the convoy call-out: “Nothing surprises me more than what this industry does for each other,” he said.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they do this. But it really ... warms our heart to see that people do this for complete strangers.”
Katherine said she was “bursting with excitement” for her son.
To the truck drivers preparing for the convoy this weekend, she said: “I would like to say massive thank you from the bottom of my - and my husband’s - heart and for giving up your time.
“[I] just can’t get over the community ... how wonderful everybody’s been.”
Julia Gabel is an Auckland-based reporter with a focus on data journalism. She joined the Herald in 2020.