Ela Township Youth Program participants check out highway department’s snow plow trucks, enjoy ride-a-long.
Of all the activities and field trips provided by the Ela Township Youth Program throughout the year, there is one the children repeatedly rate as a favorite—exploring the highway department’s enormous snow plow trucks.
In early February, Ela Township Highway Commissioner Bill Kruckenberg and Foreman Jeff Thompson drove two of their big rigs to the Ela Community Center, where the children, ranging from kindergartners to fifth graders, eagerly awaiting their arrival.
“It’s funny because the kids were so excited about it, but once they saw the size of the trucks they got a little intimidated,” Youth Program Director Alexandria Tonigan said.
It didn’t take long for the children to warm up, though.
“Once they got up close, they loved it,” Tonigan said. “Highway Commissioner Bill Kruckenberg is amazing. He’s so good with the kids and breaks information down to them in ways they can understand.”
The children gathered around Kruckenberg and Thompson to hear details including the weight of the trucks, how an on-board computer system keeps track of the amount of salt that is spread and why it’s important for motorists to give snow plow drivers plenty of room on the road.
The children also got to touch the trucks and marvel at their size.
“My favorite part about having the highway department come by the community center was all my friends and I working together to try and push the snowplow,” said an 11-year-old boy.
Two lucky girls, ages 9 and 10, had won a raffle at the youth program’s holiday party to go on a ride-a-long after all the children had a chance to check out the trucks.
“My favorite part was getting to ride in the snow plow and talk to each other over the walkie talkies,” said one of the girls.
The highway department visits the children at the community center every winter and also hosted a field trip at its Lake Zurich facility last summer. The grown-ups enjoy the visits as much as the children.
“It is very fun to introduce someone to a new experience,” Thompson said. “Not everyone gets to ride in a snowplow/dump truck. I hope the kids enjoyed the new perspective and had fun.”
By the looks on the children’s faces, they sure did.
“Put a big truck in front of them, let them sit up tall and honk a horn and they’re good for two hours,” Tonigan said. “They really liked it.”