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There were a record-setting 590 trucks in last year’s Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Convoy in Lancaster, Pa., but Eddie Perales had eyes only for the one in which his son, Justin, was a passenger.
Seeing Justin wave from the cab of the Freightliner brought Eddie back to the terrible time when he thought his son was going to die from a brain hemorrhage.
“He was almost dead,” Eddie thought, “and look at him now, waving to everyone and offering hope to other families.”
Justin Perales is one of more than 100 children who ride in the annual convoy and one of thousands helped by Make-A-Wish of Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley, the beneficiary of the fundraiser.
Justin, 11, will be back in the convoy this year with the same driver as last year, Henry Albert of Statesville, N.C.
“I have been in the convoy eight years and I do it because it’s a great cause. The kids make it worth all the effort of being there,” Albert said.
Justin was only seven in 2013 when he collapsed during a family trip. Doctors diagnosed a brain hemorrhage caused by a congenital defect and he was flown by helicopter to Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pa.. He was put into an induced coma for three weeks, surviving a second hemorrhage and several operations.
His slow recovery has entailed more surgeries and years of therapy, but Justin, now 11, is back in school and doing much better. He still has some memory problems and he has not regained full use of his right hand, but his father is grateful for the progress made.
A bright spot in the four years since the hemorrhage was the Make-A-Wish trip the family took in 2014 to Aulani, a Disney resort in Hawaii. For Justin, Eddie, his wife, Addy, and their younger son, Jordan, it was a welcome break from the regimen of treatments and therapy.
“It was beyond just treating us with respect,” Eddie said of their reception at the resort. “It was another level. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.”
Justin still keeps souvenirs from the trip in his room, Eddie added.
Last year’s convoy, which claimed the Guinness Book of World Records title for World’s Longest Truck Convoy, raised more than $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish chapter, which equated to funding 40 wishes like the one granted the Perales family.
RoadPro® Family of Brands, based in nearby Palmyra, has been the primary sponsor of the convoy since 2015. Eddie, who had been laid off shortly before his son fell ill, was hired as a salesman by RoadPro a year ago.
“I’m grateful to RoadPro and Make-A-Wish and to everyone who helps organize and support the convoy. We used to go just to see the trucks, but now I have a new appreciation for how much it helps Make-A-Wish and all the families like mine,” Eddie said.