CASTLE ROCK, Wash. -- Gabe Shefchek loved trucks.
The Castle Rock 7-year-old's admiration for the vehicles was evident, family members said.
“Any kind of truck you can think of, he would get for every Christmas. Every birthday. He loved his trucks,” said Gabe's aunt, Kari Harold.
Gabe had a collection of various Hot Wheels trucks and one of his favorite activities was checking out the tow truck that Harold's husband drove for work. Whether it was a semi or a pickup, Gabe was interested.
Now, dozens of truck drivers from across Southwest Washington and Portland will honor Gabe's love of big rigs with a one-of-a-kind tribute.
Planned for Saturday is a “truck procession” that will take place before a memorial service for Gabe.
Gabe died unexpectedly in December after contracting an illness. The boy's life, although short, was one of adversity. Family members tell KGW that Gabe was born with Weaver Syndrome, a rare growth disorder. Twice during his life, Gabe battled cancers that would relapse and require rounds of treatment.
“He beat every single odd the doctors gave him,” Harold said. “They didn't think he'd survive that, but he did.”
Harold said that while Gabe's cancers did play a role in the illness that killed him, the boy's death was still shocking.
As the family began to plan Gabe's memorial service, they thought of ways to honor and pay tribute to him. That lead Harold's husband, Joshua, to propose the idea of a procession of trucks prior to the service. Joshua shared the idea in a Facebook post asking for help. The resulting response would be tremendous.
“It exploded,” said Harold of her husband's idea. “His phone was blowing up for hours.” So far, Harold says at least 50 different trucks have committed to participating in Saturday's procession. Some local Cowlitz County first responders have agreed to drive in the procession, too, including a local fire tender. One trucker was coming up from Portland, Harold said.
“He was loved so much,” she said in regards to the planned turnout.
“It's really hard to describe the emotion that goes over with it,” said Harold of what the procession would be like. The plan was for the trucks to honk their horns as they drove by the church, something Gabe loved. “For a lot of people, it will be a good healing thing for them,” she said. “It's our community. It's his followers. It's people that loved him.”
Harold says that the plan is for any interested drivers with trucks to meet at the Castle Rock Fairgrounds around 11 a.m. Saturday. The procession will then head across the Cowlitz River and down Huntington Avenue past the Castle Rock Christian Church. Gabe's memorial service follows at 2 p.m.