Story | 06/30/2016 09:49:00

Giving hope to local cancer survivors

Marsha Miller

There are few of us who have not been affected by the terrifying impact of a cancer diagnosis…either to ourselves, a family member, a close friend, a co-worker, or just someone in the community whose name seems familiar. And for many of us, our first reaction when we hear the news is: “what can I do to help?”


The Blandin Employees for Life (BEFL) team is quietly and effectively providing an answer to that question. The team reaches out to many who are struggling with the emotional and financial uncertainty that follows a cancer diagnosis, and offers prepaid fuel cards for those in need, and behind these simple gifts of support, saying to those victims of this terrible disease: “We are a community that cares.”

“We are grateful to our co-workers for always supporting our team and those battling cancer,” says Dawn Frick, BEFL team member and UPM Product Development Specialist. According to Frick, while team members organize the fundraisers, it is the employees who raise the money. “Every employee has their story of how they have been touched by cancer, and it is because of this and their generosity that we have had successful fundraisers.”

Dear Blandin Employees for Life team, I am speechless and overwhelmed with gratitude for the generous fuel card you gave me! It is amazing to me the love and support I have gotten and I thank you with all my heart. It will help with all the trips we have to make to the doctor. God Bless you all!

Inspired team

Inspired by a local team and the fun they were having at their fundraisers, Theresa Major, BEFL team member and UPM Blandin Inventory Manager, decided to get involved with Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) nationwide signature campaign. In 2005, following a local ACS Relay for Life community meeting, she sent out an email invitation to fellow employees to form a UPM Blandin team. Within a week, 12 employees signed up.

During the last decade, the team raised over USD 100,000 for the ACS through a variety of fundraisers conducted among the employees at the Blandin paper mill. Two years ago, after working through the national Relay for Life for eight years, the Blandin team decided to establish their own independent cancer help fund that focuses on the local community.

“We realized that there was a void in our local community for support for those who are fighting cancer and struggling with basic costs like transportation to medical appointments,” says Glenda Olson long time enthusiastic team member and Mill Sourcing Manager.

The team organized a variety of creative activities to raise funds: selling pizza by the slice to employees, raffle prizes, an auction for a quilt made by two team members, selling loads of firewood and tree seedlings…and convincing two employees to shave their heads into Mohawk hair styles if employees donated to the fund – they tripled their goal!

Now BEFL’s main fundraisers are selling Christmas wreaths, Valentine’s Day roses and candy, and Mother’s Day plants. Dave Hensel organizes the very popular golf competition between Blandin Paper and Minnesota Power, a major energy supplier to the mill. This is our largest fundraising event of the year and always proves to be a lot of fun!

Responding to the fund raising events and the enthusiasm of the BEFL team, Blandin employees have contributed over USD 20,000 in the last two years to the local community cancer fund.

UPM supports the BEFL team

“This would be so difficult if we did not have the support and encouragement of UPM Blandin management,” says Major. “UPM Blandin contributes cash to the fund, finances professional marketing and materials, helped create a new team logo, and encourages both our team and fellow employees to participate.”

BEFL is committed to providing support to cancer victims and their families in the local community which is a sobering experience. But in their fundraising projects and team meetings, the experience of working together as BEFL team members with a shared mission is enriching, rewarding and fun.

The BEFL project is part of UPM’s “Biofore Share and Care” programme. UPM’s societal engagement activities are closely connected to our Biofore strategy and responsibility targets. UPM’s “Biofore Share and Care” programme reflects our commitment to building a sustainable, innovation-driven future. We want to focus on projects that are relevant to both UPM’s business and responsibility goals. The focus areas are: Reading & Learning, Engaging with communities, Responsible water use and Boosting bioinnovations.

Dear Blandin Employees for Life team, Just wanted to say thank you so much for the fuel gift card. What a wonderful and unexpected gift. One thinks they are facing cancer alone, then people want to help – I so appreciate your help!

Story on Blandin Employees for Life team.

Read more about the Biofore Share and Care programme »