Riders prepare for the 2016 Ride For Life, an event benefiting Relay For Life and The American Cancer Society.
Tim Sweat, one of seven children that included five brothers and one sister, has a history of cancer in his family. “We first lost my brother—the healthy one—at age 38. He ate healthy, exercised, really took care of himself. And he’s the one who got cancer,” Sweat said. His mother would battle the disease for 10 years. As a 27-year veteran of Jackson EMC, he knew his fellow employees had a rich history of community support and involvement. So he decided to act.
Local Jackson EMC offices sponsor a variety of events, and employees participate in the annual Relay for Life events each spring. Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, consists of community events that honor cancer survivors, remember lost loved ones and raise funds to make a global impact on cancer. Companies and individuals form teams each year to participate, and each team creates its own fundraising projects to reach the minimum $1,000 annual donation.
Since many of his co-workers and Jackson EMC members enjoyed riding motorcycles, Sweat thought it was a natural fundraising fit to increase awareness and raise funds for cancer research. So he designed a 50-mile motorcycle ride open to Jackson EMC employees and the public, starting and ending at Jackson EMC headquarters in Jefferson, Georgia.
“It’s the best community fundraiser we’ve ever done,” said Sweat. “I don’t consider it an effort because I enjoy the ride and the people.”
A true community event aided by local sponsors and members of the community, with overhead less than one percent, virtually all the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society. For example, Joey Yeary, a local engineer whose father died from pancreatic cancer in 2011, prints honored names on vinyl to affix to American Cancer Society yard signs at no cost. “I’m happy to play a small part in helping someone honor or remember their loved one by printing the names,” said Yeary.
Since Sweat’s first organized ride in 2006, the event has grown by more than 800 percent, raising $7,940 in 2016 for the Jackson EMC Relay For Life team and bringing the 11-year total to $53,590. Starting with 50 participants in 2006, the ride boasted more than 100 cyclists and 40 sponsors for the 2016 Ride. Jackson EMC employees volunteered by securing door prizes, vendors and sponsors, and on the day of the ride, employees and their families’ set-up vendor space, organized lunch, cleaned up and provided general ride support.
Local law enforcement from three jurisdictions—Jefferson City Police and Hall and Jackson County Sheriffs—escort the Ride every year. Cooperative partners Georgia Transmission Corporation and Oglethorpe Power Corporation sponsor and participate, as well.
“My mom had Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and then breast cancer. She died last summer. Cancer is close to my heart. It has affected my family deeply, and I’ve seen many of my co-workers touched by cancer. Everyone is affected by cancer. Our Ride For Life brings all of us together to honor our loved ones and help others. That’s why we do this,” said Sweat.
Jackson EMC Ride for Life benefits the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Tim Sweat, senior director, Job Training and Safety for Jackson EMC, is the event coordinator. If you are interested in riding or sponsoring the Ride for Life, contact him at email@example.com. The 2017 Ride for Life is scheduled for Saturday, June 17.