Company : Hy-Vee, Inc.
Program category : 2015 Community Outreach Awards Nominees


In March 2015, Hy-Vee announced a partnership with the Pinky Swear Foundation, a national charitable organization that supports children with cancer and their families through fundraising kids triathlons. This partnership brought the fundraising events to five Midwestern communities, giving local children the chance to race for those who cannot. When 9-year-old Mitch Chepokas was in the hospital being treated for terminal bone cancer, he overheard a family discussing not being able to afford Christmas gifts that year. That night, Mitch put all of the money from his savings account into envelopes and delivered them to other families on the pediatric oncology floor. After Mitch gave away the envelopes with his savings, he asked his dad to pinky swear to keep helping children with cancer when he was gone. The Pinky Swear Foundation was created in Mitch’s memory to honor his legacy of service to families of children with cancer. The Pinky Swear Foundation aims to ease the financial and emotional impacts experienced by children with cancer and their families by providing money to help families with basic needs, such as mortgage or rent, transportation, gas and food. The foundation embodies two core focuses that are also important to Hy-Vee — health and wellness and community support. The fundraising triathlons teach kids they’re not too young to make a difference in another person’s life, while encouraging them to be fit and active. This summer, Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlons were held in Des Moines, Iowa; Bettendorf, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Hy-Vee employees worked closely with the Pinky Swear Foundation throughout the year to plan and execute the events. However, without a doubt, the local volunteers and community support were essential in making the events successful. The teamwork and collaboration in each community was tremendous. More than 315 Hy-Vee volunteers throughout the five hosting communities assisted with set-up and tear-down and acted as event staff. In the weeks leading up to the races, volunteers displayed posters and fliers in their stores and reached out to local community partners with information on the races. Stores designated store captains who set up booths to encourage kids to sign up or shared the Pinky Swear Foundation’s mission with parent shoppers. Hy-Vee and the Pinky Swear Foundation built strong relationships with local hospitals and caregivers in the triathlon cities. These relationships helped build community support and raise awareness for families with children who have cancer.


The primary purpose of the swim, bike and run events is the fundraising aspect, in which kids raise money to help kids with cancer and their families. The Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlons are fun, fitness-friendly and accessible to youth of all skill levels. The triathlons reinforce Hy-Vee’s commitment to health and wellness while providing exciting opportunities to engage children in fundraising and giving back to their communities. At each event, there are “All-Star” families in attendance who have children battling cancer. Each participant writes the name of an All-Star on their leg, showcasing a child with cancer who they are racing in honor of that day. The triathlons are full of music and encouragement, to teach kids that being active and giving back can be fun. Additionally, each child breaks the tape at the finish line and receives a medal, making every participant feel like a winner.


A total of 1,902 children participated in the triathlons this year. Many participants completed their first triathlon at our events, which are focused on participation rather than competition. The distances are shorter than a traditional triathlon and adjusted by age, making them accessible to every child who wants to make a difference. According to Pinky Swear, a child is diagnosed with cancer every 45 minutes in the United States, and 1 out of 11 families given that news will file for bankruptcy. The funds that are raised at each of the Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlons directly benefit families in the area who have children with cancer. As part of the triathlons, children fundraise year-round to help families through the Pinky Swear Foundation. Children are encouraged to hold lemonade stands, go door-to-door, start a blog or come up with other creative fundraisers. At each triathlon event, the top 11 fundraisers are recognized by their peers and the crowd. In addition to the funds raised by participants, the events’ entry fees go toward helping local children with cancer. To date, the 2015 Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlons have raised $331,949. With the expansion of the Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlons into five new cities, the Pinky Swear Foundation was able to build relationships with local hospitals and their staffs. This year, the Pinky Swear Foundation helped 110 families in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri with the funds raised at the Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlon events.


“We are extremely pleased to have a partnership with the Pinky Swear Foundation and help with their commendable efforts in raising money and awareness for children with cancer. Being involved in our communities is a top priority at Hy-Vee. In working with this foundation and local hospitals, we have been able to engage families in fitness, raise funds for those in need and have a little fun in the process.” – Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee chairman, CEO and president

Support Statement:

“The Pinky Swear Foundation began as a pinky swear promise between a son and his father and has grown into a nationwide organization. I’m proud of the work we have done with Hy-Vee to bring additional triathlons to new markets. We are thrilled about our partnership with Hy-Vee, and we are excited about the tremendous impact it will continue to have on our organization and the families we serve.” – Brian Nelson, Pinky Swear Foundation executive director