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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Jaron Fry is one of Wyoming Department of Transportation’s snow plow drivers, but he used to be a truck driver in a former life. As he was working 12-hour shifts to plow roads in the Evanston area, his eye wandered often to all of the stranded truck drivers. He knew exactly how they were feeling.
Truck drivers, Fry believes, are unsung heroes in American society. Everything Americans buy — literally every little thing — arrives to communities on a truck.
“The stigma, or whatever, that truckers have,” Fry said. “I think it’s weird that they have that kind of shadow over them, when, in reality, they’re the heartbeat of America.”
After the third or fourth day seeing this long line of stranded truckers growing and growing, Fry decided to do something about it, to brighten their day. He was going to bring some tacos or sandwiches to them on his day off.
“I remember when I was stranded, I just wanted some decent food, not what I had stored in my truck,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “This closure had been for several days, and I kept seeing the trucks stack up as I worked my 12-hour shifts plowing, and I just kept thinking, these guys need a good meal.”
Fry posted his little idea on Facebook, and that’s when something unexpected happened.
A few people, seeing what he was planning to do, asked for his Venmo. They wanted to just chip in a little and help him with this volunteer project.
Fry decided he would do that, expecting maybe $25 bucks here or there.
“That would still buy a lot of tacos,” he said.
But he didn’t get just $25 here or there.
“I don’t know what happened,” Fry said. “Like my Venmo blew up. I got all kinds of donations and waters and people that want to bake cookies, and I’m going, man, I’m just one dude here.”
With all these extra proceeds to help him, Fry was able to not only buy more tacos, but he could extend his deliveries to the next day.
He bought a big round of breakfast burritos the next morning and headed out, thinking that would likely be it.
But, when he looked at his Venmo after making those deliveries, 17 more donations had come in, ranging from $10 to $200.
He turned around for more breakfast burritos twice that morning, then decided to do Jimmy John sandwiches for lunch.
By that time, the roads were starting to open up again, and Fry was telling people to stop giving him money for food for the truckers. Or trying to anyway.
But some of the people just wouldn’t listen or take no for an answer. Those people, many of them, were the truckers themselves.
“You know, (truckers) have got this persona about them that they’re all grumpy and they hate the world, but I got so many God bless yous and thank yous,” Fry said.
By now, the truckers had all gotten to know what Fry’s car looked like. It’s yellow and black like a bumblebee, and kind of hard to miss — particularly against a nice, white backdrop of snow. Whenever they saw his vehicle, truckers would get out, not just to say thank you, but to pay it forward.
“I told them guys, I’ve gotten enough, I’m good,” Fry said. “And they would say, ‘Then you go buy your kids something. What you’re doing is amazing. Nobody else was doing it, and we appreciate it.’”
Fry said he still has about $670 in donations because people just wouldn’t stop giving to the cause. He’s going to save it for the next storm, and take more food to stranded truckers.
“I never intended to make any money or anything like that,” Fry said. “I never intended it to go crazy like it did. I was just simply delivering some food to people who I thought might want it.”
But the whole experience did something way beyond money for Fry. It has helped restore his faith in humanity.
“It just seems like such a negative world we live in any more,” he said. “But this, this was nothing but positive. It just kind of blew me away.”
Negativity is so easily found these days. Online, on television — bad news abounds.
“It may seem like everybody hates everybody and everybody hates the world, but it’s just not true,” Fry said. “Like if you’re willing to go out of your way to help your fellow man, ironically, they turn right around and reciprocate with appreciation. All that negativity is just not what it seems, you know, if that makes sense without going too deep.”
The only other time Fry said he’s felt like humanity was all one, working together like this, was back during Sept. 11, 2001.
“I’m a volunteer firefighter for 22 years now here in Evanston, and 9-11 kind of hit home,” he said. “I was on the department at that time. There was nobody who hated anybody. Nobody. It was everybody helping everybody.”