WINONA — Declan Pfund, who turns 4 years old on Tuesday, loves trucks.
Saturday, at the truck driving school at Minnesota State College-Southeast in Winona, Declan got the birthday surprise of his life when nearly 40 trucks rolled in — horns blowing — to celebrate his birthday.
"He sits outside our house on Third Street and he'll get all those truckers to honk their horns," said Sabrina Pfund, his mother. Looking around at all the trucks, other kids climbing in and out of cabs, and hearing the sound of semi horns blowing, she added, "I love it. It's awesome."
The birthday party for Declan started when his grandmother mentioned Declan's love of trucks to a coworker whose husband drives a semi for a living.
That trucker, Jessie Maynard, put out a call on social media asking trucker friends if any might like to help celebrate Declan's birthday by showing off their trucks to the boy. But, he said, he made his post public instead of private, and truckers from around the region responded.
"We got 2,800 shares, and I got 500 private messages, some from as far away as Georgia and Texas," Maynard said. "And I've had 150 friend requests."
All that in three weeks as people responded to the story of Declan's love of trucks, he said.
Initially, Maynard said he'd hoped to get three or four trucks to come by the Pfund house to make Declan's day. Instead, it quickly became apparent they needed a bigger venue. So, Maynard reached out to MSC-SE and Tom Gierok, the instructor for the truck driving school at the college.
Gierok said he jumped at the chance to make Declan's day in a way that highlights the big hearts he sees in the people who drive trucks.
"It's so nice to see families come out here to see what we do," he said. "This image is what I like to see. We're just normal people."
But this was far from a normal day. The trucks rolled in and opened their cabs for kids to explore, with truck drivers encouraging kids to do what kids love best about semis: blowing those horns.
"I was that kid," Maynard said. His father drove a truck and, growing up, Maynard spent summers riding with his dad. And when kids in cars or on the side of the road would make that motion — reaching up to pull down an imaginary cord — that is, the universal symbol for honking the horn, Maynard obliged.
"I lived in that semi as a kid, and I pumped that horn as a kid," he said.
Derek Symitczek, who drove his truck down from Arcadia, Wis., to help Maynard, said he never misses a chance to blow his horn when kids make that motion request.
"You blow the horn and watch the parents jump," Symitczek said with a laugh. "Then you see the smile that comes across that kid's face."