In 2006, UPM Blandin employees formed a volunteer American Cancer Society Relay for Life Team and became a top fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, raising over $100,000 between 2006 and 2013. One notable fundraising event during these years was “Paddle for the Cure” in which a few Blandin employees and members of the Itasca Kayakers kayaked the last leg of their Mississippi River trip, which started at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, and ended in the Gulf of Mexico. Their efforts benefited the American Cancer Society through their donation to Blandin Relay for Life by raising nearly $10,000 collecting pledges and dedicating a memorial for friends and family who lost their battle to cancer.
In early 2014, Blandin Relay for Life took a new direction and established a local cancer fund at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation (GRACF) under the new name Blandin Employees for Life (BEFL). Since then, the funds have remained local and available to Grand Rapids and the surrounding area citizens needing short-term help with cancer expenses by providing gas cards to assist with costs of transportation. The all-volunteer group, supported by employee contributions, community members, businesses and fundraisers, has awarded as average of $16,000 annually. With the mission of “helping local people with cancer,” BEFL has also donated $1,000 to the local Itasca Hospice Foundation and $2,000 to the Grand Itasca Hospital and Clinic Infusion Center.
Blandin Employees for Life holds several fundraisers during the year including sales of Valentine Roses, Tree Seedlings, Spring Flower Baskets, and Christmas Wreaths, which is going on right now. Other fundraising initiatives have included raffles for firewood, quilts, and golf clubs. The MN-Power/Blandin Golf Challenge is by far the leading fundraiser for the Blandin Employees for Life cancer fundraising team. This event alone has raised a total of over $85k in the past 15 years. This year they broke records, raising close to $11,000 for the cancer fund. The event has over 150 players and close to 60 sponsors. “Everybody has a great time at our golf outing known for fun games, raffle and prizes,” says Blandin Senior Buyer, Direct Materials, Theresa Major. “And a shout out to Minnesota Power – we wouldn’t be able to do this without their awesome volunteers, teams and corporate contribution. We are grateful!”
BEFL is committed to helping local people fight cancer. If you are interested in donating to the Blandin Employees for Life Fund, you can drop off or send a check to the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, 350 NW 1st Avenue, Suite E, Grand Rapids, MN 55744. Or, you can donate online at www.gracf.org, click on Donate Now and select Blandin Employees for Life. If you or someone you know has cancer-related expenses, you can apply for a grant at www.gracf.org, click on Grants, Apply for a Grant and click on Apply Now under Blandin Employees for Life Fund.