Some people Race for the Cure. Others Bowl for the Cure or Tri for a Cure — swim, bike and run — to raise money to support cancer research, treatment and patients. In central Illinois, they Drain for the Cure every year with donation matches up to $30,000 from Auburn, Ill.-based pipe extruder Springfield Plastics Inc.
Founded in 1978, SPI has 85 employees and produces high density polyethylene pipe for the agricultural, residential, commercial and highway markets. The company promotes itself as the only U.S. manufacturer certified to use only 100 percent virgin resin.
Shareholder-owned and family-operated, SPI recently presented a $112,000 check to the Simmons Cancer Institute, also in Springfield, to help those fighting and studying the disease.
In all, the pipe maker has raised more than $500,000 since 2014 for the facility at Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale. Some of the money comes from a supporting high school event called Game for a Cure and merchandise sales. A new initiative geared toward farmers called Grain for a Cure also brought in $12,000.
However, the bulk of donations come simply by SPI officials asking the community for their support every October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, according to SPI Vice President Jennifer Furkin.
"We send a flyer and letter at the beginning of the campaign, then a postcard reminder, and people mail in checks. It's very heart-warming," Furkin said in a phone interview, pointing to widespread support from students, businesses and the community.
Donated checks are made directly to the Simmons SIU Foundation. There are no administrative costs.
"One hundred percent of the donations go to the foundation. No overhead dollars are involved," Furkin said, describing part of the appeal.
The effort began eight years ago when Furkin's late cousin, Lori Baker Jones, was diagnosed with an incurable form of breast cancer — stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer — at age 34.
"At first, we as family were in the battle and we were ready to make that big contribution," Furkin said. "Then, it caught on with customer and vendor support and then the community and our employees and shareholders. Unfortunately, cancer is so widespread, every single person has a story about why they are ready to support the cause."
Some of the money raised has gone to improve patient access to treatment. For example, the cancer center used Drain for the Cure donations to relocate a second-story area for infusions to a wing by the entry.
"People going to their infusions used to go upstairs and around the corner to the left to find their check-in point. Now they access it right through the front door," Furkin said. "The money makes life easier for people going through this every day."