Gary King, with the help of his wife Carol, started Trucker Buddy in November of 1992 to teach elementary school children about trucking by matching teachers and their classes with pen pal drivers. Thirteen years later, more than a million children and 4,000 drivers have participated in this grassroots goodwill program.

There is usually a list of teachers waiting for drivers, too, and for good reason: many teachers use the program to help teach mathematics, English, reading and geography using real-world, practical examples from their Trucker Buddy. “Trucker Buddy brought geography and map skills into my classroom better than any textbook could,” said one Alabama teacher, a sentiment echoed by many others.

“I started Trucker Buddy in 1992 with a class of 18 fourth graders at Faith Christian School in William’s Bay, WI,” King said. “Those kids are all grown up now. Once in a while, we run into one of them and it is always a special moment for us.”

Today, Trucker Buddy is Trucker Buddy International (a non-profit organization), Ellen Voie is executive director and there are sponsors from all segments of the trucking industry and beyond, including Kenworth Truck Company, Freightliner LLC, TransCore, J.J. Keller & Assoc., Inc., Delphi, Wal-Mart, ATA and many others.

Founder King, however, is off the road and resting following surgery last month for stomach cancer. Trucker Buddy is accepting donations to help the King family with medical expenses. To learn more call 1-800-MY BUDDY.

“I haven’t done so much,” said King. “I had an idea and a lot of other people believed in it and got involved. That is what made it a success.”