Heiser to mark seventh year in convoy

By on May 4, 2016
Leonard “Lenny” Heiser, a truck driver for Mar-Allen Concrete, is shown with Dominick Barnhart who will be riding with him in the Mother’s Day Make-A-Wish Truck Convoy for the fifth year in a row.

Leonard “Lenny” Heiser, a truck driver for Mar-Allen Concrete, is shown with Dominick Barnhart who will be riding with him in the Mother’s Day Make-A-Wish Truck Convoy for the fifth year in a row.

For one Ephrata truck driver, the Mother’s Day Make-A-Wish Truck Convoy, which is set for this Sunday, holds a special place in his heart.

This will be Leonard “Lenny” Heiser’s seventh convoy. He drives a truck for Mar-Allen Concrete in Ephrata.

Heiser said he was working for Mar-Allen Concrete when his neighbor’s daughter, Kaitlyn Dundore, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. He said he approached his boss, Jeff Zimmerman, and asked if he could put his truck in the convoy. Zimmerman supported the idea.

Heiser said Kaitlyn was his first Make-A-Wish child and she rode with him for two years.

“It turns out, Kaitlyn’s sister was a perfect match for her,” he said. “She’s cured now and is graduating college this year.”

Heiser said that was a great feeling, and since then, he has found another Wish child, Dominick Barnhart.

This is his fifth year with Barnhart and how they met was quite by accident. He said it was his third year, and since he was no longer with Kaitlyn, he was waiting by the tent for his name to be called, and it wasn’t.

“I went up and I asked, ‘Did you call my name?’ and they told me no,” he said. “I asked if they had a Wish kid to ride with me and they said, “Here, take this young man right here.”

And that young man was Dominick.

Dominick, now 12, was diagnosed in utero with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. He became a Make-A-Wish child when another family, going though the same thing, introduced his parents, Richard and Jessica Barnhart, to the organization. The convoy came later.

Jessica, who is from Ephrata, grew up watching the convoy. She said it was a family tradition that continued with her own family.

“He always loved fire trucks, police cars, big trucks, heavy machinery,” she said. “When he found out he could ride in the convoy, he was almost as excited as he was about the Wish itself.”

Jessica said even though Dominick is reserved and doesn’t say much on the day of the event, “ he has a smile on his face the entire time.”

“He plays the games and walks around,” she said. “He looks forward to it each year,”

Ironically, Heiser said the best part of the day for him is the smiles.

“I sat and watched the convoy for 19 years but now I’m more blessed to be a part of it,” he said. “A lot of these kids don’t even know how long they have.”

When asked why he continues to participate in the convoy, Heiser said, “Kids are our future.”

“And these kids don’t even know if they have a future,” he said. “We have to take care of the kids.”

Heiser encourages everyone to help out.

“Our kids, they are the future….our future presidents, our future burger flippers, our future mechanics.

“Make-A-Wish is the best organization I have ever encountered,” he said. “It’s a great organization. It’s amazing how this whole thing got started, with over 40 trucks and one kid who wanted to talk on a CB.”

Heiser said what really tugs at his heart while driving in the convoy is seeing the people gathered and holding the signs that say, “So and so is fighting cancer.”

“I could put a bag over my face and just have eye holes,’ he said. “My face is not important. It’s all those others out there that are. I’m doing it to help the kids and their parents.

For the past two years, Heiser is one of the top 30 drivers in raising funds for Make-A-Wish.

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