“Construction vs Cancer” event raises 115k to fight pediatric cancer
HOWELL, Mich. – Operating Engineers 324 and construction industry partners raised $115,000 in the fight against childhood cancer at the 4th annual Big Dig of Michigan fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. OE324 hosted 450 children at its 600-acre Construction Career Center in Howell on July 16.
Children of all ages enjoyed a hands-on and immersive introduction to the construction industry and science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Children operated heavy equipment with the help of skilled volunteers and took part in construction-themed crafts, demonstrations, and activities.
“Hosting hundreds of kids during the Big Dig event and seeing their eyes light up when they got to experience working with heavy equipment and seeing how we build awesome monuments across the state, that’s a truly priceless and special moment for all of us,” said Lee Graham, Operating Engineers 324 Labor Management Executive Director. “We have an amazing construction industry in Michigan. The Big Dig was a really special day.”
“Supporting events like the Big Dig is right in our portfolio as operating engineers, retirees, journeypersons and apprentices because being a professional operating engineer also means giving back to the community and doing the mission of good work. Operating Engineers 324 is grateful for the opportunity to support children, help fight childhood cancer and bring hope to families.”
Graham said the construction industry jumps at the opportunity to partner on the Big Dig because cancer has affected so many lives. Equally impressive was the large number of volunteers working to make the day as successful and enjoyable for the families as possible. Dozens of volunteers helped by showing children how to operate the equipment and registration and logistical support, among other tasks.
“It truly would not be possible to do this without so many fantastic volunteers from so many different organizations,” said Graham.
This year’s event boasted a record number of sponsors who contributed equipment, volunteers, and financial support to the event and cause. Adamo Group, Ajax Paving, Alta Equipment, Angelo Iafrate Construction, Aristeo Construction, Associated General Contractors, B&B Concrete Placement, Barton Malow, BNV Earthmovers, Cadillac Asphalt & Materials, Carhartt, Champagne & Marx Excavating, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Christman Constructors, Construction Association of Michigan, Corrigan Oil, Dickies, Domino’s, Eagle Excavating, Enbridge, Fessler & Bowman, Fisher Contracting, Florence Cement, Guy Hurley, HBT Architects, Ideal Group, MacAllister Rentals, Michigan Aggregates Association, Michigan CAT, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, Michigan WORKS! Southeast, Milwaukee Tool, MISS DIG 811, Operating Engineers 324, Roncelli, StoneCo, Toebe Construction, and United Rentals all sponsored the event this year.
Parent Ajai Tice attended the Big Dig with her son Mateo after learning of the event on Facebook. She said Mateo was “excited to get on all the vehicles.”
“He always waves at the construction people, and today he gets to be a real construction person for the day,” Tyce said. “I think this is great exposure, it’s really opening up his eyes. It’s amazing.”
Pediatric cancer patients ages 4 to 14 attended the event, which was held at OE324’s training center so the children could actually operate heavy machinery and perform tasks such as dig huge holes, move large boulders and more. More than 75 volunteers from the partner organizations participated, with operating engineers and other construction professionals helping the children operate machinery ranging from pump trucks, excavators, loaders and more on OE324’s 600-acre campus.
Michelle Day brought her grandson Aiden, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3.
“I got on an excavator!” Aiden said. “I’m excited about all this machinery because I get to build a home!”
“He has a desire to be a builder, so this is perfect for him, to be able to experience the construction machines” Day said. “As a caregiver for Aidan and caring for his condition, seeing so many people support the American Cancer Society and coming out to events like this and giving back to families that need support really warms my heart.”
“For the American Cancer Society and the many children and families we serve, the friendship and partnership we enjoy with Operating Engineers 324 and members of Michigan’s construction industry are blessings that can help change so many lives,” said LeeAnn McDowell, ACS senior development manager. “The Big Dig Fundraiser is an opportunity to engage the massive construction industry in Michigan and at the same time brings awareness to the American Cancer Society’s efforts to bring hope to families across Michigan fighting pediatric cancer. Michigan’s operating engineers’ enthusiasm and energy helped make the Big Dig a resounding success.”
Parent Meredith LeBlanc attended the Big Dig with her son Richard. She said: “We saw the event on Facebook and it sounded like such a fun thing for him. He’s always loved trucks, and to give him the opportunity to get in them and maybe drive them a little bit or even operate them sounded like the best thing ever. We got some pretty big smiles!”
The Michigan Big Dig fundraiser is now in its fourth year. Funds from the event will go toward supporting pediatric cancer research, education and advocacy. Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death among U.S. children and teens ages 1-19. For more information, go to: cancer.org.