A children’s advocate

As a volunteer for the Truckin’ for Kids event for more than 30 years, OOIDA life member Frank Pangburn has helped raise millions of dollars.

November 2020

Scott Thompson

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Frank Pangburn has been an advocate for children for decades.

The OOIDA life member from Idaho has served as a volunteer for the Truckin’ for Kids: Truck Drags and Show & Shine in California for 36 years. He’s organized the event for about half that time.

During the 36 years that Pangburn has been working the event, it has generated about $3.8 million for various organizations that benefit children. For the past 15 years, the main beneficiary of the event has been the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“I just think children need all the help they can get,” Pangburn said.

The 2020 Truckin’ for Kids event was supposed to be the 78-year-old Pangburn’s final year as the show’s organizer, but the COVID-19 pandemic robbed him of that chance.

“I kidded with my wife (Dianna) that we’re going out with a fizzle instead of a bang,” Pangburn said. “This whole year has been unfortunate for the entire country. It’s a devastating setback for all involved. It’s a shame, but it is what it is.”

But the show will go on – with luck, starting back up in the fall of 2021.

Pangburn is transferring the trust for the nonprofit organization, but he did make sure all of the proceeds from the sale will go to charity.

The show itself has changed over the years. These days, there’s usually around 350 trucks that show up for drag races and light parades. There have been pickup truck contests and more.

Truckin’ for Kids started in Palmdale, Calif. When the show outgrew that location, they moved on to what used to be known as the California Speedway in Fontana, then Bakersfield and finally Irwindale, which has been home to Truckin’ for Kids since 2007.

And while the locations have changed, the spirit of the event hasn’t.

“I would say the show, to make it in one sentence, it’s an annual family reunion. So people you don’t see all year, you get to see at the show,” he said. “It’s wonderful. There are a lot of hugs and handshakes and that type of thing going on. So that’s the wonderful part about it. We’ve had people come there since they were kids, and now they’re business owners.”

The show has been a family affair for the Pangburns. Dianna takes care of the registration and the paperwork. Their daughter, Jonna, creates the show’s programs, and Frank’s brother, Paul, attends the show and helps each year.

In addition, Frank said he wanted to acknowledge the 28 members of the show’s committee who volunteer. He said the majority of the members have been on the committee since 1985.

“That’s what makes this show so special,” Pangburn said. “Everybody knows what they need to do and can put out their own fires.”

Pangburn admits that it’s going to be hard to walk away, but he knows it’s time as he turned 78 in July.

However, Pangburn isn’t completely riding off into the sunset. He’s offered to help whoever takes over with whatever they need. And Pangburn expects to attend next fall’s show to see all the friends he’s made over the years.

That’s what he says he’ll miss the most.

“I’ve had people come from England and Australia,” Pangburn said. “I had a fella not too many years ago bring a truck over from Holland. We always have a longest tow competition, and of course, he won the longest tow. … We have friends from Mexico that come up every year and drag race with us.

“Some of them have been difficult to speak with because of the language barrier. But there’s always a smile and a handshake, and that seems to work.” LL