From Tom Hanks to Tamales: Vons District 45 Raises Funds For weSPARK
The folks in District 45 of Vons Stores in the San Fernando Valley are working extra hard this month to make money. But the cash won’t be going into their own registers; instead it’ll be going towards breast cancer research and weSPARK. For the entire month of October, 17 different Vons stores are competing against each other to be the fundraising leader. It’s a friendly competition that has sparked some creativity among store managers and employees.
In addition to the usual barbeques, bake sales and pink wristbands are some more individualized efforts. Anna in the Northridge store capitalizes on her cooking skills and sells home-cooked tamales and enchiladas to customers. The Granada Hills store will have a bowling tournament for employees, with half the funds going to weSPARK. The Chatsworth store bought a variety of breast cancer items from the Oriental Crating Company – including hats, eyeglass holders and the newly trendy dog tags – and are reselling them at a profit.
On a broader scale, Mitch Holden, weSPARK Outreach Director and Bob Ordas, Assistant Manager of District 45 – and spearheads of the entire campaign – delved into their resources for larger possibilities. Bob used his partnership with the Red Cross annual blood drive to raise additional funds by providing a $50 donation into the Vons Foundation Grant for Breast Cancer for every blood donation an employee made. With just three stores and three days, Bob raised $7,350. To wrap up the competition, Mitch will compile some celebrity items for a silent auction as a final push to reach the overall goal. Auction items include a Da Vinci Code movie poster signed by Tom Hanks, a signed Soup Nazi 8×10 as well as Dom DeLuise and Clint Eastwood memorabilia.
How did this cause-related marketing come about? Bob Ordas and Dikla Benzeevi, a weSPARK guest and volunteer, both credit Mitch with tireless effort towards the coordination of the Vons/ weSPARK collaboration and campaign promotion. Since 2004, Mitch has worked directly with Vons to solidify the relationship and create a successful fundraiser. The collaboration bought in $27,000 the first year and increased to over $35,000 the following year. For 2006, an even higher district goal was set at $123,000 to be split between weSPARK and Holy Cross. At the time of this writing, the entire district of 17 stores has raised an impressive total of $77,182.
In this friendly competition, employees at every level are a passionate part of the whole. Bob, Mitch and Nancy Monette, District Secretary oversee the campaign, but all three stress that the employees are the ones doing the hard work and it’s their compassion and drive that bring in the money. Nancy adds, “Tim Saller, District Manager, pumps everyone up and sets the goal. It’s easy to work hard with Tim relentlessly cheering everybody on.”
Of course, the heart of this competition is not in the winning; it’s in the participation. Nothing was clearer when Bob and Mitch brought Dikla into a meeting with all 17 store managers to educate them about weSPARK’s services and the actual use of monies raised.
Dikla, a guest and volunteer at weSPARK, is a virtual walking testimonial to the benefits of breast cancer treatment innovations and weSPARK’s services. A breast cancer survivor, she told her story of diagnosis, multiple treatments, recurring and metastasizing cancer and her current “no evidence of disease” status. Dikla cites weSPARK’s support groups and welcoming environment as the supportive core of her four-year emotional journey. “Before I even began my story, I asked for a show of hands to see who had been touched by breast cancer in some way – and every hand in the room went up. I think we were all surprised; and the response certainly fueled their enthusiasm and commitment to working with weSPARK.”
The competition comes to a close in just a few days. So, what does the winner get? “Bragging rights,” says Bob. “Yes, there’s a plaque from corporate and a certificate from the district manager, but really pride in participating to find a cure is the most rewarding part of this experience. And so in the end, everyone is a winner.”