The board of directors and ambassadors of Trucker Buddy International announced the organization's Ambassador of the Year award has been named posthumously for Darrell Hicks, the longtime Trucker Buddy board member, advisor and ambassador known as Uncle Darrel.

Hicks died in July after a long struggle with lung disease.

"Uncle Darrell was a special person and is missed by all of us," said Randy Schwartzenburg, executive director. "Naming this award after him is a testimony to the many lives he touched with class and respect. He chose the Arkansas School for the Blind for his Trucker Buddy class. His work with those blind students actually gave us an insight into the life of Uncle Darrell and why the award is so appropriate."

Darrell Hicks was an original board member of Trucker Buddy when the organization became a certified 501(c) 3 non-profit. He led the organization as president and later became the only non-driver ambassador.

For more than 26 years, Hicks served his employer Penray as a coolant expert in the trucking industry. He was an active member of the Technology and Maintenance Council of ATA, where he received such distinguished awards as the Silver Spark Plug and the Gerri Murphy Membership Award.

Trucker Buddy International has helped educate schoolchildren and introduce educators to the trucking industry. This gives them the world through the eyes of a professional truck driver. The Trucker Buddy program helps to educate and mentor schoolchildren via a pen pal relationship between professional truck drivers and children in grades K-8 as supervised by their teachers.

After an extensive screening process, the professional truck drivers are matched with a class and as directed by the teacher, drivers share news about their travels with their class. Students write letters and send pictures to their drivers. Students' skills in reading, writing, geography, mathematics, social studies, and history are enhanced and learning is made fun.

Since 1992, Trucker Buddy International has helped educate over a million schoolchildren and introduced them to caring, compassionate men and women, professional truck drivers. The on-going success of the program is due to driver volunteers, participating teachers and the contributions of sponsors. There is no cost to the drivers or teachers to participate in the program. The Trucker Buddy program is funded entirely through sponsorships and donations.