By BRENNA GRITEMAN
In 2009, three Ohio-based farm cooperatives planted the seed of a concept: work “cooperatively” to raise $50,000 for breast cancer research.
Two additional cooperatives and a fleet of pink propane tankers later, “Fueling the Cure” has surpassed the $1 million mark. And it has no plans of stopping.
Ray Etgen is vice president of propane operations at Heritage Cooperative, based in West Mansfield and servicing many areas in northwest Ohio including Ada, Arlington, Dola and Upper Sandusky. He was one of a handful of original members who dreamed up the charitable program years ago.
Realizing that a collective effort could make a larger impact than fundraising by individuals, each cooperative pledged to donate $1 per delivery of bulk propane. The mission was given a vibrant burst of momentum as a group of propane tankers was wrapped with pink messaging proclaiming “Fueling the Cure.”
Etgen said Heritage customers and co-op employees have warmly embraced the mission and feel good “knowing that they’re a part of a bigger effort.”
“I never in my life expected to get to this level,” he added of the million-dollar landmark reached in December.
Today, “Fueling the Cure” is a collaboration between four Ohio and one Indiana-based cooperatives: Heritage, United Landmark, Sunrise, Centerra and Premier-Ag. Proceeds go directly into the “Cooperatives for the Cure of Cancer” endowment fund established by the cooperatives in 2011 at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The fund is overseen by Steven Clinton.
“Food and agricultural scientists are collaborating closely with The James Cancer Hospital to provide novel new foods and dietary strategies to promote cancer prevention and enhance the efficacy of therapy and survivorship,” Clinton said. “The Fueling the Cure effort continues to support the research that will be critical to elimination of cancer as a major health burden for future generations.”
Etgen said “it’s been amazing” to be a part of such a massive fundraising effort, adding that while the co-ops occasionally compete for business, they’re a united, cooperative front in combating cancer.
He added the OSU scientists are also committed to overcoming cancer and are making solid advancements: “They’re actually finding cures in the crops we grow and the foods we eat.”