DALLAS — For 10 years, the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund has helped commercial truck drivers who’ve experienced financial hardship due to medical problems.
Radio personality Dave Nemo and Dr. John McElligott started the 501(c) (3) nonprofit after witnessing countless truck drivers and their families struggle after incurring a catastrophic injury or illness. The charity helps drivers stay afloat, helping with rent or mortgage payments, keeping the heat and lights on, making truck payments.
The organization also does what it can to help drivers prevent medical problems by improving their lifestyle.
Their latest effort is “Rigs without Cigs,” a smoking cessation program. On the opening day of the 2017 Great American Trucking Show, St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund communications and wellness manager Julie Dillon made a presentation about the program, which began accepting participants August 1 and officially begins September 1. Dillon said when she started on her way to Dallas for GATS, about 30 people had already signed up for the yearlong program. She said the goal is to start the program with 100 participants.
The yearlong program is open to anyone in the trucking industry, including spouses. New participants can enter the program at the start of each quarter. Participants will also mark their progress at the start of each quarter, which will begin with a conference call with McElligott. They will also be eligible for quarterly and yearly prizes, receive weekly support and encouragement and have access to a Facebook group for mutual support.
Participants enrolled in RoadPro Rewards can also earn free incentive gifts and extra rewards points.
The program will provide cessation information, website links and other materials to help the with the cessation efforts. Those who have helped with the cause include Tom Kyrk, a truck driver and a high-profile advocate of healthy lifestyles for truckers, and Carolyn O’Byrne. The author of “Gut Instinct” and a life coach who specializes in particular problems drivers face in living a healthy lifestyle, O'Byrne has served in an advisory capacity.
O’Byrne said she began focusing on truckers’ health through her husband, Kelly O’Byrne, a second-generation truck driver.
Trucking has built-in challenges to good health, O’Byrne explained.
“Bodies were made to be active, not to sit for 10 hours,” she said. And when they do get out to get something to eat, the choices available to them are usually not the healthiest. Most drivers have small spaces, limited ability to prepare food themselves, she added, and unless they are very good at planning ahead, it’s almost impossible to get the diet and exercise they really should be getting.
And a lot of truckers smoke. Dillon said she doesn’t have exact figures, but the percentage of truckers who smoke is higher than that of the general population.
Not all truckers smoke, Dillon said, and smoking is not the cause of all truckers’ illnesses, but “it’s the one of the most common denominators.”
Anyone who’s interested in the “Rigs without Cigs” program can find out more and register at www.trucksfund.org.