After just its first year in operation, the Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation has raised a million dollars that aided victims of the severe flooding that struck Colorado’s Front Range in September 2013.
Although the Foundation’s initial focus in the first year was maximizing fundraising efforts for flood victims, it also developed national partnerships in a variety of focus areas, including outdoor recreation, arts and music, and environmental sustainability.
Lyons, ColoRADo, is still home to the original Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. When Oskar Blues Soul Founder Dale Katechis learned of other local businesses that suffered damage, some so severely that they were in jeopardy of closing their doors permanently, he jumped into action. Starting with a personal donation of $150,000, Dale reached out to the craft brewing industry and fans of Oskar Blues, and issued a matching challenge through the end of 2013. In just three months, CAN’d Aid raised and distributed $515,000 for flood relief and recovery efforts, directly assisting 235 families, 65 businesses and five organizations.
While CAN’d Aid continues to work directly with the Town of Lyons to support flood-related projects, the Foundation’s focus has expanded to include the original concepts that Dale had in mind pre-flood.
The Foundation focuses on “Grassroots Grants”–a concept that celebrates the little guy with a big idea. By incorporating specific program areas, Tunes (music, arts & culture); Towns (disaster relief); Treads & Trails (outdoor pursuits/health & wellness); Love Yer Mama (sustainability & recycling); and throwing in a wild card, Total CANarchy (anything goes). One year after its launch, CAN’d Aid Foundation has emerged as a funky, unique and utterly atypical nonprofit organization.
“As our official transportation sponsor, CAN’d Aid makes it possible every day for 160 kids and teens from all over our county to travel to our Club by bus. The funds enabled us to expand our bus fleet, allowing kids faster and safer access to our programs, including outdoor excursions focusing on healthy and fit lifestyles, community service opportunities, and arts & music instruction,” says Jackie Witherspoon of the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County.
“Love Yer Mama” offers recycling-specific grants to groups interested in starting sustainable recycling programs and incorporates education about the benefits of aluminum packaging over glass or plastic. A national recycling initiative, which the foundation kicked off in June with help from The Alcoa Foundation, Ball Foundation and Novelis, is gaining momentum and will soon incorporate OB-centric recycling hubs in both Longmont, CO, and Brevard, NC.
In addition to the $700,000 CAN’d Aid has given for ColoRADo flood recovery efforts, an additional $150,000 has gone toward grassroots community projects all over the U.S. Oskar Blues Brewery matches every dollar raised by CAN’d Aid, and people are starting to notice. ColoRADo Governor John Hickenlooper has repeatedly applauded the Foundation’s work and recently cited CAN’d Aid as being instrumental in helping Lyons rebuild. Boulder-based eTown, a nationally syndicated radio program, recently awarded Dale and the Foundation their E-chievement award for giving back and having a tremendous impact in that community. (To hear Katechis’ video interview with e-Town hosts Nick & Helen Forster, visit www.etown.org). The Colorado Rockies Baseball Club and Rockies Foundation have also supported CAN’d Aid generously, and Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer recently named CAN’d Aid as his charity of choice, resulting in a $7500 gift from Chevrolet through his Roberto Clemente Award nomination.
As CAN’d Aid enters year two, there is no sign of slowing down. Big focus areas will include partnering with nationally touring bands to fund “TUNES” programs and working with groups like Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and bike-centric companies to increase funding for “TREADS & TRAILS” programs.
For more information about the Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation, to make a donation or to get involved, visit www.foundation.oskarblues.com.