Written by Daryl Chappell, Communications Manager at PAM Transport
No matter the age, there is something powerful in witnessing joy and wonder experienced by another person. Even more powerful is to have the opportunity to bring joy and wonder to someone else.
If you’ve ever been a kid (or a kid at heart) and got a big truck to honk the horn by pumping your arm up and down, you remember to this day how that felt. I can promise you the driver had just as much fun as you did, and that moment of shared joy had the power to brighten their day.
Meet Keilan Topps. Keilan likes trucks. I mean, he REALLY likes trucks. One day he reached out on the PAM Transport Facebook page and asked a simple question: “Do truckers still use CBs?” After answering that and a few other questions, I decided to check out his Facebook profile and learn more about Keilan. Once I got there, things started to make sense. His header photos were full of trucks. His profile photos showed him standing next to trucks. There were truck shows, truck stops, trucks, trucks, trucks. Did I mention he likes trucks?
Seeing that kind of love and enthusiasm for trucks and truck drivers, our team wanted to do something special for Keilan. An important note here is that Keilan is on the autism spectrum. For this reason and to protect his family’s privacy, we reached out to the police department in his hometown to share our plan and see if they would be willing to contact the family on our behalf. They readily agreed and soon after, we were able to talk directly with Keilan’s dad, Mike, and make our arrangements.
“I got a phone call asking if I was familiar with Keilan and that the folks at PAM wanted to try and make something happen for him,” says Sergeant Matt Fowler of the Hayti, Missouri Police Department. “I got online and found out Keilan and I had a friend in common on Facebook, so I reached out and started learning about the young man. I went and spoke to his father, and it was a welcoming deal. Keilan seems like a good-hearted kid that has some special needs, but he’s doing life and he’s doing good. We all see the bad stuff that goes on everywhere and it’s good to have something good take place for a change.”
Meeting up with Keilan wasn’t going to be enough, though. Finding a fan as big as him is a cause for celebration! We gathered up a PAM Transport hat, shirt, Safe Driver jacket and other items for him. Peterbilt Motors Company trucks are his favorite, so we reached out to our friends at The Larson Group (TLG Peterbilt) too. They were excited to learn about Keilan and sent some swag to add to what we were sending him.
But the trucking community being what it is, the generosity didn’t stop there. Our friends at Doggett Freightliner in Springdale heard about what had now become a full-blown event and donated even more items. Since the Pilot Flying J truck stop was Keilan’s favorite, their corporate office sent a couple bags of swag and a gift card for him to use in their stores.
“Keilan has autism and usually his fixations last about six months to a year, but he’s been fixated on trucks now for about 10 years,” says Mike, Keilan’s dad. “He loves to come to the truck stop and watch trucks. Because he does have autism, he likes to be on a schedule and since I couldn’t bring him every day, I told him to pick two days out of the seven-day week. So, twice a week we’re parked right here watching trucks.”
On the day we arrived, Pilot made sure their wrapped tanker truck was there for him to check out. Royce, a PAM Transport company driver, also volunteered to stop by and show Keilan his brand new 2022 579 UltraLoft. Not only that, but the local Pilot team was so excited to hear about our visit, they hung signs and balloons for Keilan, made cookies, and bought him lunch.
“Meeting Keilan was awesome!” says PAM driver Royce. “We had a few challenges getting me here, but seeing the smile on his face when he got into the truck, that he knew exactly what kind of truck it was, made it all worth it.”
For me personally, meeting Keilan was fantastic. He is an amazing young man, so intense, and his knowledge of trucks is impressive. I could see the excitement in his whole person when our driver pulled up and Keilan said, “Dad, that’s a Peterbilt 579 Ultra Loft!” His enthusiasm is simply infectious.
The more excited Keilan got, the more excited the rest of us were. His face was practically glowing with happiness, and everyone who came together could feel how much it meant to him. I am so glad and feel so fortunate that we had the opportunity to spend time with him.
Kielan’s father, Mike, shared how grateful he was that everyone came together to do something special for his son. “I’d like to thank the Hayti Police Department, specifically officer Matt Fowler, for bringing this to our attention,” he says, “I’d like to thank Pilot/Flying J and the Arby’s Organization for hosting this event, for letting us use their space and providing gifts for Keilan. I’d like to thank PAM Transport, Daryl Chappell, and his team for spearheading and organizing this event and facilitating the resources and the logistics to make it happen, just to put a smile on his face. It’s something I know he will remember forever and I’m certain I will too.”
For his love of trucks and his unwavering support of truckers, Keilan became an honorary trucker. Royce shared his feelings about meeting Keilan: “I knew being part of this would be a blessing, I just didn’t know how much of a blessing it would be.”
After the event, as they were walking to their car, I heard Mike ask Keilan about his experience. He replied simply, “It was a good day, Dad. It was a good day.”
I feel fortunate to work with such an amazing team and for a company that lets me share moments like this with people all over the country. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that joy and happiness was brought to a young man who loves trucks.