Written by: Hannah Geelhoed, Community Involvement Coordinator

When I first joined the SpendMend team just over 5 years ago I was given the directive from the executive board to “get SpendMend more involved in the community”. This seemed like a broad venture to take on and I had no clue where to start, so I asked members of my team, “What charities or causes mean the most to you and why?” I gathered their responses and signed us up for Blood Drives, raised money for Kid’s Food Basket, and Toys 4 Tots, but I wanted the team to have one big event each year to go all out for. I searched and searched for a charity where we would be able to see the impact of our efforts and found Bee Brave, a volunteer-run group that is dedicated to finding a cure for Breast Cancer – and better yet, is based in Grand Rapids, MI, headquarters of SpendMend.

Since our first appearance in 2017, SpendMend has been able to fundraise over $35,000 for Breast Cancer Research in Grand Rapids, MI for the Van Andel Institute (VAI). One of the reasons we choose to participate partner with Bee Brave is because 100% of the proceeds go directly to the VAI. Members of our team have been lucky enough to take tours of the VAI labs, see the equipment, and meet the scientists that our donations have been able to fund. This year alone the team raised over $13,000!

When I first chose to support Bee Brave, I was participating on behalf of a family member who battled breast cancer – like many other members of our team were. This year, we collectively dedicated our walk to one of our own, Colleen Kretowicz, an Audit Supervisor at SpendMend. She was brave and gracious enough to let us share her story here:

“I almost opted not to tell and have only a lumpectomy under the guise of a week-long vacation.  It was a valid option with the type of cancer I have, but the bilateral mastectomy was the better and most reassuring treatment with only a 3% chance of recurrence!

I was afraid that I would have my clients reassigned or given to someone else to share with me or be moved to another position in the company.  As a single woman living alone, loss of income is a very real fear. Its right up there with cancer scary.

My daughter finally convinced me that I needed to do what was best for me no matter what. 

When I set up the call to discuss my diagnosis and treatment with [my managers] Travis, Josh and Rob, I was really scared of the outcome but resigned to accept it, whatever was decided and focus on what I had to deal with.  They could not have been more supportive and reassuring.  Knowing that my employer and my co-workers had my back brought that stress down and let me focus on healing; physically and mentally. 

I’m in tears now remembering all the love and caring I felt from SpendMend.  We put together a plan to take care of my clients while I was out and seriously – my team and management stepped up and jumped in to make things happen and let me rest.  Especially in such a male-dominated industry to have a company be so supportive both publicly and privately is amazing!! I will always be so grateful for that.”

We are so thankful for Colleen’s fighter mentality are proud to have her as a member of the SpendMend team.

While the 5K event happened last weekend, all of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the donation page is still active throughout the month and accepting donations. If you are interested, please use this link: https://runsignup.com/spendmend. Any contribution you or your friend group can make will help in significant ways.

SpendMend thanks everyone who donated and participated in our fundraising efforts. Our team’s donations are creating innovative and life-changing discoveries in the field of Breast Cancer Research.