Praxair Joins the “Race for the Cure” against Breast Cancer
By Beverley Sinton
Internal Communications Benelux
Karin, thank you for agreeing to talk to us. You work at Praxair, which I believe supplies gases for industrial use.
Please could you tell us why Praxair has chosen to support the fight against Breast Cancer?
It is an unfortunate fact, but we have to face it, many of us, if not all, have been, or are still confronted with Breast Cancer in our families, amongst friends, in the community. In our case, about 3 years ago, one of our colleagues got diagnosed with the disease and got successfully treated. We then decided to start participating in the Race for the Cure. The first year, 40 employees from the site she works in, participated to support her when she walked for the cure after intensive therapy.
3 years later it has become a yearly event, and we’ve made it a joint effort throughout the Benelux.
I understand that over 200 runners from Praxair took part in the ‘Race for the Cure’ in Antwerp last autumn. I read that there were about 2,000 participants overall, so Praxair had a very important involvement.
How did Praxair encourage so many people to take part? Were they all employees?
Actually, it was the second year in a row we reached over 200 participants, thus being the 2nd largest group of participants from one company/organization. The overall amount of participants last September was close to 6000 though.
In our case, employees can join with their families, Praxair pays the entrance fee for every employee and their family members that participate in the event, and two years ago our Management gave us a challenge to work towards: if we would reach over 100 participants, they would double the entrance fee, and make an extra money contribution to the organizing committee. Needless to say we made a big effort to motivate as many employees as possible, which paid off: that year we were 252 participants, all either running or walking for the Cure. Since many of us agreed it was a day to remember, and because it is such a great cause to support, we repeated the effort last year, and as mentioned, again we reached over 200 participants.
Apart from ‘Race for the Cure’ has Praxair done anything else around the issue of Breast Cancer? Do you work with one particular Breast Cancer charity?
Where Breast Cancer is concerned, Race for the Cure is the only event we participate in for the Benelux. This way we support Think Pink, an organization that permanently campaigns to make people aware of the fight against Breast cancer in Belgium.
The reason we chose Race for the Cure, is because it’s an opportunity for people to participate in an event together with their families and colleagues, thus making it a joint effort that benefits a good cause.
During 2014, Praxair across Europe copied the initiative and each country Praxair operates in in Europe organized 1 event to support the research for Breast Cancer. As such, we’ve more than tripled our contribution.
Are there similar numbers of men and women from Praxair involved in the Breast Cancer campaign? Does the campaign extend to employees families?
I have no facts and figures whereas the participation of men and women are concerned, the campaign extends to employees, their families, children, boy/girlfriends…
Last year, at the start of the event it became clear how large an impact breast cancer has on our community, as 230 balloons were released into the sky, representing the number of women in Belgium who, onlysadly enough, in September 2014, lost the fight. against breast cancer in that one month.
Not only the focus on this impact is the goal of the event, also the many people in pink T-shirts, the fellow sufferers, visualize the number of victims, whether female or male, young or old. The visibility of these victims gives those who still suffer the courage to go on, makes those who beat the disease proud, and gives comfort to the families and friends of the ones that lost the fight. From the more than 200 participants for Praxair last autumn, three women were fellow sufferers, and together with their colleagues, families and friends they joined in to show their support, and make others feel they are not alone in their ordeal.
Is Praxair involved in the Breast Cancer campaign globally, or is this a local initiative organized by the company in Belgium?
This is a local initiative, initially organized by our Antwerp office, which after three years has become a Benelux initiative, as also colleagues from other sites in Belgium, and even in the Netherlands have joined in the past two years.
Will Praxair in Antwerp continue to support Breast Cancer, or do you choose a different charity each year?
Plans are already being made to again participate in the Race for the Cure in September 2015. In the past two years we managed to be the 2nd largest group of participants, only to be preceded by the group of fellow sufferers in pink T-shirts. We hope one day to come in first with our group – not because we absolutely want to win – no, only because that would – hopefully - mean that the number of victims is getting smaller every year, thanks to the funding at this type of events, and the research it is spent on.
I see Praxair globally are involved in several ‘Giving Back projects in different counties. It is admirable that Praxair encourages charitable work – does the company benefit from these projects? How do you feel you benefit as an individual?
I think everyone benefits from charitable work, not only the beneficiaries and the companies that provide funding, but also every individual that participates. It gives a positive outlook to the company, increases community awareness with its employees, and improves the quality of life of the beneficiaries. Helping the disabled, bringing smiles to children’s faces, planting trees, donating food and books, each contribution is worth the effort. Seeing the happy faces after an event, feeling the gratitude, even if your contribution wasn’t that big, increases motivation, builds self-esteem and social awareness.
In the case of Race for the Cure, I can only speak for myself, but I know many of my colleagues agree:
Hats off for the people in pink T-shirts who fought the fight, and have the courage to show it to the world, all with a big smile, and a big heart for their fellow sufferers. Each year, it is an honor to be part of this race, and to be able to cheer for them as they are running and walking for the cure…
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Community Engagement may not be as well known yet in Europe, as it is in the US, I think it’s a great way to make people aware of the fact that there are many people out there that are less fortunate than us, and that our help can improve the quality of life of others, sometimes even with a minimum of effort.
Apart from charity work, I’m a member of an amateur theater company, and a choir, where I act or sing. At home, I like to spend my time on my other passion, quilting. Not only in traditional patchwork, but also in Art Quilting. When I have some time left, I help out where I can – at events both in my private & professional life.
During my 31 years with Praxair, I’ve had many opportunities to keep my career interesting: starting off as a receptionist, moving through customer services and marketing support & communications, I’ve landed now in my most favorite job, as an Internal Communications Specialist.
Here I can use my strengths and fully exercise them, working with and for people that make a difference to me, to themselves, to their colleagues and to the communities they live in.
Karin Verbruggen – Internal Communications Benelux
Praxair NV, Olen - Belgium
Born in 1962, married, mother of 2 children, living in Mol, Belgium.
Graduated in 1981 as a 4-lingual Secretary (Dutch-French-German-English).
After an internship as General Admin in the Nuclear industry, I ,started in May 1984 as an intern at the reception desk of Matheson NV in Oevel, Belgium (which over the years became Praxair NV), where I got a part time contract as of August that year. Since then I worked as an Order Entry Clerk, then moved up to Marketing Support and Marketing Communications for Specialty Gases and Electronics. Somewhere in between I also had the opportunity to teach In-house computer applications to my Belgian colleagues. After three years as a Customer Service Specialist for the Export countries, and moving to and from the Oevel facility and the Praxair Olen offices, my last challenge was to combine a job in General Services as coordinator for the 4 facilities in Belgium – a result of my experience in Administrative work – and in Internal Communications Benelux, where my knowledge of 4 languages and my experience in Marketing Communications provided the necessary background for this new challenge. Since the end of last year I’m able to focus solely on Internal Communications, in coordination with my German colleagues.
Finding my way in the many ways to communicate, keeping up with new writing skills in three languages, supporting all kinds of Community Engagement projects, and getting communication to the next level is my challenge in this new opportunity.
Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Praxair nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.