UW Carbone’s Race for Research part of American Family Insurance Championship tournament events
Proceeds benefit Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation
Despite the cancellation of the 2020 PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation continues to have a charitable impact by making direct donations to primarily local non-profits, including those providing COVID-19 relief. This is the sixth and final in a series of stories; this one about UW Carbone’s Race for Research and an American Family employee, Erik Gennerman, who runs for reasons personal to him. This race joined the list of American Family Insurance Championship tournament week events in 2019, and proceeds benefit the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.
It has been several years since American Family employee Erik Gennerman lost his cousin Tim to cancer. But Erik’s commitment to giving back to his community has been a constant for years. And he’s chosen to honor his cousin and his commitment to community through the UW Carbone’s Race for Research. The race became part of tournament week for the American Family Insurance Championship in 2019.
“Years ago, avid runners would participate in any run they could find, just because it was offered and it was fun,” said Erik, “But runners are now getting more selective and starting to choose events that benefit causes that align to their personal experiences and what they support.”
For Erik, the UW Carbone’s Race for Research is one of those events.
Focus on community
Erik has been participating in the race since 2012, with friends and colleagues from the American Family life distribution team. But it isn’t just running on one of the greatest collegiate cross-country courses in the U.S. or meeting Bucky Badger along the way that keeps him coming back. It’s the dedication he sees from participants and his own employer.
“One of the things that stops me from ever moving away from the Madison area is the passion people have around so many worthwhile pursuits,” said Erik. “Community is built around issues that are important to people. And American Family Insurance definitely aligns with that in their community investment efforts.”
The UW Carbone Cancer Center is Wisconsin’s only federally designated comprehensive cancer center and combines cutting edge research with patient care.
In 2019, when the race became the kick-off event for the American Family Insurance Championship, 1,200 community members raised more than $170,000 for cancer research.
In addition to the important impact of the race on cancer research, Erik participates to remember and honor his cousin. In 2018, Erik ran the race wearing the shirt his cousin had made to wear for fundraising.
“I let Tim’s mom know the race was run in his honor and that I wore his shirt and brought his picture,” Erik says, “In that way, he lived on and was with me.”
Walking the walk...or running the run
While there are dozens of running events to raise finds for cancer research and treatment, the UW Carbone’s Race for Research is the one Erik returns to every year.
“It’s a confluence of perfect things,” explains Erik. “I have my employer, American Family, behind me, matching funds for donations. I get to engage with more people and network at work. Plus, it’s important to me to do things as an employee that aren’t just between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.”
Matching donations, community investment in events like the American Family Insurance Championship, and continued support for volunteerism are part of what keep him an engaged and proud American Family employee.
An end to 2020’s event
Erik raised approximately $1,800 in 2019 and set his goal high for 2020 at $4,000. When asked about his aggressive goal he said, “Why not? Why didn’t I make it $10,000? I’d rather miss my goal because I set it too high and work hard at trying than to achieve my goal because I set it too low.”
Unfortunately in 2020 due to the pandemic, the American Family Insurance Championship as well as all related events, were cancelled. Erik understood why the events couldn’t take place, but he was still disappointed and sad to miss the annual race, the people and the inspiring community atmosphere.
“Having (American Family Chief Financial Officer) Dan Kelly lead us with his opening remarks in 2019 and seeing him out running alongside us was huge,” said Erik. “That demonstrated to me the dedication of our leaders.”
Despite missing the 2020 event Erik is not deterred. “We’ll hit that $4,000 goal in 2021,” he said.
For more about the important work of the UW Carbone Cancer Center and their goal to eradicate cancer, the UW Carbone’s Race for Research, or to register for the 2021 event, visit their website.
In its first four years, the American Family Insurance Championship provided proceeds of more than $7.1 million to 280 charitable organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. This year's contributions bring the total to more than $10 million.