Deals On Show: Canberra Rise For Cancer

By: Warren Aitken


The trucking community turned up in force on March 31 to take part in the annual Rise Above Cancer Convoy in Canberra, raising much-needed funds for families suffering from the dreaded disease. Warren Aitken reports


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"If it wasn’t for the ‘truckie’ and ‘bikie’ community, Rise Above wouldn’t be here." Those are the words of Melissa Gardner, the CEO of Rise Above, a charitable organisation that looks after and supports nearly 500 families through the turmoil of dealing with cancer.

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The Murrell Distribution team took every outbreak of clear skies to get their Saturday clean on

It’s Melissa’s job to raise the money to assist those families. Her admiration for the transport industry stemming from massive support from the truckies and bikies that has led to the growth of the Rise Above Cancer Convoy.

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The Commisso crew turned out in stunning style with their fleet. Regularly seen distributing their Go Troppo produce around NSW and ACT the family run business always turns out in force to support the Convoy

The Convoy has been going in one form or another for a couple of decades. Rise Above took over the running of the convoy in 2013 and Melissa and her team have grown it from 230 bikes and trucks to nearly 500 trucks and 300 motorbikes. It’s a huge event and it just keeps getting bigger.

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It was a sardine-like scene as the trucks squeezed into the streets around Beard’s industrial area

This year I got my chance to experience the Capital Convoy firsthand and see how Rise Above has managed to raise nearly half a million dollars with the support of the community, some bikes, more than a handful of big rigs and eight naked truckies. We will get to that bit later.

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A regular at charity events and truck shows, Ross Transport’s Truely Frantastic Kenworth stood out in its vibrant pink paint scheme

While Canberra is the country’s capital it is by no means the biggest city around and the turnout each year for the convoy and for the cause is a testament to the community spirit that runs deep.

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Seems fitting that when help is needed one of the first teams there was APlus Towing. In fact, 6am hadn’t even rolled around when Gary Fleming and his team rolled in. Left to Right are Marley, Scott and Maisie. Michelle and Allen. David (Lollipop Man) and Mick. The boss Gary and Kayla are off to the right, while Chloe and Josh and down in front. The round of coffees making up for an all day Saturday clean and a 5am Sunday start

"Canberrians have pretty big hearts," Melissa says. She is not wrong. It wasn’t just the money raised that emphasised her point, the public acceptance of major delays to their roads as well as more than a few enthusiastic air horns throughout the Sunday parade shows how important this fundraising event is to the local community.

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Jackson Smecky, Harley Rootsey, Daniel Harcen and Ben Sanders turn up to represent the Canberra Hydrovac team in their first Convoy

Convoy day, which was held on the March 31, turned out to be perfect. Yes, it may have been a little cold for those used to more humid conditions but when you line it up next to the previous day it was damn near tropical.

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Justin Lewis thanks his boss at Maranoa Haulage for finding him a load that enabled him to track his way down from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to participate in the convoy

In fact, Sunday’s turnout was even more impressive considering during cleaning day on Saturday, the weather drifted between pouring rain, torrential rain, drizzling rain and rain.

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Although reluctant to pose, Kristy-Lee Morrison stood in front of her dad’s stunning W-model. With the keys firmly in her hand, Kristy-Lee she drove the Kenworth in this year’s convoy

With temperatures floating between ‘polishing in this weather is insane’ and ‘you are a tool, grab a beer and get inside’, hundreds of drivers, families and friends did get out and put in the hard yards. As they rolled into the staging area at 6am on Sunday all the hard work was worth it.

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When it comes to colourful characters with colourful trucks you can’t beat Kenny Carratt and his Flintstone Mack, another regular at the Rise Above Cancer Convoy

PUBLIC APPRECIATION

The trip took the convoy from the suburb of Beard, around the city, across the front of Lake Burley Griffin, up Gungahlin Drive and into Exhibition Park. There would have been more than a few drivers and passengers with sore arms after returning the waves of all the fans who turned out to watch.

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Graham Gregory, who his Lentro Earthworks work mates say ‘came off the ark’, waits beside his shining Kenworth. After losing a few family members to cancer, it’s a convoy he’s happy to support

There was hardly a reprieve for the driver’s air horns and waves as it seemed there were people at every vantage point on the 25km journey. Once the trucks arrived they quickly filled up the showgrounds.

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Linehaul to puddle jumpers, everyone turns up for the convoy. Canberra’s JAG Pumping crew rolled up with a fleet full of shapes and sizes to show their support

Drivers and the public were then treated to food and entertainment including performances by Diesel and country rock band Hurricane Fall. Kids had their share of entertainment as well with plenty of rides and activities.

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The convoy is all about supporting families and it’s the families that turn up to support it. Pictured here are the JSC Concreting team, with their families in tow

Stalls were set up and kept busy all day. Sadly, I can’t really elaborate on what they were selling as I found the food truck with the pulled pork nachos and lost interest in almost everything after that.

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Tanya Barns gives her 1987 Ford a final wipe-down before the rubber hits the road. Tanya has given her first truck the nickname ‘Fluffy’ … "because she’s anything but," she says

The bikes, the trucks and the music complemented by the weather topped off another successful year for the Rise Above Cancer Convoy.

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‘It’s not how big it is that counts, it’s how much it shines!’ And Joel Commisso may not have the biggest truck at the Rise Above Cancer Convoy, hell it’s not even the biggest in the Go Troppo fleet, but it’s one of the coolest ones around. The family blinged it up as a tribute to their grandfather

TEAM EFFORT

Before you head off, special congratulations go to all those that bid so intensely for the lead truck position. The team at Elvin Group took out the lead truck spot with a bid of $40,000, followed with generous bids from TJS Transport, ICON water, EVO Energy, Tony Innaimo Transport, Bayldon Ag and Capital Heavy Vehicle Driver Training. There are very few of us that have not been affected by cancer and the generosity of all those involved was outstanding.

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Lead truck this year went to Elvin Group who put in a winning bid of $40,000 during the auction for the prime position. Standing with driver Mark Johnson (on the left) is Elvin’s operations manager Ross Scarman. Elvin Group has always been a huge sponsor of the event; the Canberra based company with a fleet of 40 always has a huge convoy presence. "The founder of the group, Tom Elvin, passed away from cancer. The two sons (now running the company) are very in-tune with giving back to the foundation," Ross explains

And finally, if you have read this story only to find out where the eight naked truckies fit in, well I’d really like to question your motives behind that. But I did mention that they had a fair bit to do with the event and the truth is their performance kicked off this year’s fundraising drive.

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The Canberra Convoy is supported by all that is Canberra. Even the ACT Parks and Recreation Fire Management team took time out from their busy days to shine up and roll out. Danial Ormsby, Ngalan Gilbert and Ian Worboys were up for a chat as we waited for the convoy to roll out

While the idea of a truckies strip show may have been Melissa’s, it came about when young Tristan Kilpatrick flippantly mentioned to Melissa last year, "sure Melissa, I’d do anything to help".

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Just a fraction of the Roberston’s Yass fleet. Casey Edwards (left) drives the big Western Star, Peter Edwards steers the fancy Kenworth and Zak Kelly is the man behind the wheel of Robertson’s K200 tipper

Twelve months later he has managed to stitch up seven others, there have been a few beers and ciders consumed and a couple of dance and choreography classes before ‘The Not so Full Monty’ show hit the stage at the Queanbeyan’s Roos Club to a sold-out audience. The $14,000 raised kicked off this year’s total.

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Two thirds of the now infamous ‘Not quite the Full Monty’, out lapping up the accolades. Mick, Kev, Josh, Mark, Anthony and Tristin were more than happy to ‘get it off’ for a good cause. I can only assume the two missing strippers were off getting in practise for next year’s encore

So full credit to those boys; it takes a lot of balls to do that in front of a room full of people, but hey, that’s what the crowd were there for after all. Like I said, a successful convoy, and well done to everyone involved.

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The crowd warms up at Exhibition Park

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