When it comes to raising money to fight cancer, electric cooperative employees have walked around relay tracks all night, worn pink hardhats and even shaved their heads.
Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s Andrew Hanna has taken that cause to an extreme level.
Hanna and a friend drove hundreds of miles in the late winter, in the Midwest, in a car from which they removed the roof and windshield.
It’s part of the ChopTop Challenge, an 1,800-mile, four-day road rally from Chicago to Las Vegas in un-souped up cars. The rally itself isn’t a fundraiser, but the friends turned it into one, raising about $4,000 for the American Cancer Society during the past two years.
“We wanted to do the challenge for fun, but quickly decided if we’re going to do something so crazy, we should use it for good,” said Hanna, a materials clerk at the Grawn, Michigan, co-op, who’s lost several family members to cancer.
ChopTop drivers follow several rules, including signing “a very lengthy waiver,” said Luke Wilcox, a friend of Hanna’s and co-founder of the rally, now in its third year.
“Vehicles must be one that was not offered from the factory with a convertible option,” the rally’s website states. It also recommends that drivers “weld the doors shut and have a roll cage in the vehicle.” Full-face helmets and lots of warm clothing are musts.
The team labored to make the 1997 Honda Civic with 190,000 miles “less miserable,” said Hanna. They spent about $1,000 to cut off the roof, weld the doors shut to harden the chassis, install different seats to protect them against stiff Midwestern winds and complete other improvements.
Hanna’s coworkers helped defray costs with fundraisers, including a chili cook-off, a silent auction and individual donations. Proceeds also went to the American Cancer Society.
“What makes our employees great at Cherryland is that they care about their community and each other,” said Tony Anderson, the co-op’s general manager and NRECA national director. “When one of our own seeks support for a charitable cause, we band together to find fun and creative ways to help.”
Equally overwhelming were strangers’ “thumbs up, waving and horn-tooting,” while on the road, said Hanna. “Each time we stopped for gas, we explained it to other drivers and invited them to sign the car with a name of someone affected by cancer. Each time we shut off the engine, more names were added.”
Hanna and Stewart want to do the race next year, if they can get time off work. But if they do, it won’t be in the ’97 Civic. When this year’s race ended in Las Vegas, they gave it to someone who promised to keep it as is and drive it in a future ChopTop Challenge.
“It meant more to us to pay it forward and give the car to someone who [will] continue the tradition, as opposed to getting a few hundred for it,” said Hanna.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.