A young Hamilton boy is in for a big surprise this weekend with dozens of truck drivers planning something special.
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.
“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.
The support came in fast with around 60 truck drivers expressing interest in joining the convoy this Sunday. Around 25 had confirmed their attendance as of Tuesday afternoon.
The plan is for the convoy to stop at Oliver’s home on Sunday morning where he will choose which truck he wants to ride in. The convoy will then travel to the Hart Haulage depot in Hamilton where the 7-year-old 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.”
Hart is unsure how many people will join the convoy but drivers have been asked to confirm their attendance by tomorrow. He said he may have to find a second venue if all 60 of the interested drivers show up.
“It’s certainly been done plenty of times before, but we just need to... make sure that we don’t interfere with other things that are happening in the city.
“At the moment, we’re waiting to see how big this is going to get.”
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.