WPX employee Donnie Mitchell hit it out of the park with his fundraising efforts for this year’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Donnie, 33, is a two-year cancer survivor, who works in WPX’s Parachute, Colo., office in the Piceance Basin as an environmental specialist.
Last year, he raised more than $7,000 for Relay for Life in less than a month.
And this year, Donnie was the honorary chairman for Grand Junction’s Relay for Life on June 15-16. His goal was ambitious. Donnie says he raised more than $50,000 for the event with the help of a grant and matching gifts from WPX.
“I have the ability to raise funds, because I work with a bunch of phenomenal people who are willing to donate to a great cause,” Donnie says.
Donations to Relay for Life help the ACS provide college scholarships, research programs, a place to stay for cancer patients and their families when out of town, and many more services.
For Relay for Life, groups come together in communities across the country to raise money, then participate in a two-day track event to show support for cancer patients and survivors.
Donnie, a husband and father of two, was diagnosed with stage one testicular cancer in late 2009 after a doctor’s exam following a hunting injury he sustained.
“I noticed a lump and went in for a checkup. We did an ultrasound, found that the lump was cancerous, and I had surgery right away, he says.
I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this beat me.’ I’ve always been a positive person and a happy-go-lucky type of a guy, anyway.”
After surgery to remove the cancer, Donnie had about 20 radiation treatments. But in his upbeat manner, he says, they were “nothing compared to a lot of other people’s treatments.”
As he beat cancer, Donnie slowly settled back into his normal routine of working, taking college classes through WPX’s tuition reimbursement program, and most importantly, spending time with his family.
Then he met 8-year-old Samantha. She, too, was a local cancer survivor, who was walking door to door in his neighborhood, collecting money for Relay for Life.
“Seeing her out there – this little tiny girl – doing everything she could to raise money to fight cancer, and here I am – this grown man – doing nothing,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘I can do that.’”
After that meeting last year, Donnie took his passion to the pavement.
“We walked all night long – I walked 35 miles, which was 105 laps on the track.”
For the 2012 event, Donnie knew he had to do something really spectacular to top last year. A friend mentioned he should try hosting a drawing to collect donations.
It was just the idea Donnie was looking for. He organized three drawings in April, and he sold tickets for $100 each. Winners received various prizes, from hotel stays to hunting equipment.
“We sold out all of our tickets, and we raised more than $30,000 from those drawings,” he says.
As one of his responsibilities as this year’s honorary chair, Donnie was asked to throw out the first pitch at the grand reopening of Grand Junction’s Sam Suplizio Field for a Colorado Mesa baseball game on April 20.
“It was a huge day for me. It was also the day we had the drawings, and I was the first person to throw a pitch on the field since the grand reopening,” he says.
“It was cool for me, because I played high school baseball there, and not only did I get to throw out that pitch, but I got to be there as part of Relay for Life.”
Donnie says the whole experience – from the day he discovered he had cancer, to becoming this year’s Relay for Life honorary chair – has humbled him tremendously.
“You have to be grateful for what you have. Never take anything for granted,” he says. “Live life to the fullest. I know it’s kind of cliché, but that’s really a motto to go by.”
Donnie’s success in fundraising and becoming a leader at WPX and in the community comes as no surprise to environmental manager Rick Matar, who has supervised Donnie for three years.
“He invigorates a group and makes a project fun,” Rick says. “And first and foremost, he’s a family man, and that’s something he’s well respected for.”