A Sweet Beet to Beat Cancer

Renville, Minnesota is a small town that’s had a big impact on the fight against cancer.

For a decade, community members and employees of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) have been hitting the pavement at the Running to a Sweet Beet 5K to raise money for research and supportive care for cancer patients.

SMBSC is based in Renville. They’re the largest employer in the county and they support 5,200 jobs throughout the state, generating more than $800 million in economic activity according to a University of Minnesota study.

They take their commitment to creating more resilient communities seriously, contributing to efforts to help secure a strong foundation for the families that call southern Minnesota home.

“We recognize the strength of our cooperative depends on strong and healthy communities,” said Liza Fagen, a SMBSC employee and a member of the Running to a Sweet Beet organizing committee.

Over the years, SMBSC has invested in community health and service organizations, county fairs, local fire departments and ambulance teams, education opportunities, agricultural activities, and more.

Twenty years ago, a group of SMBSC employees decided that they wanted to utilize the strong community networks they had forged to make an impact on cancer. They started with small fundraisers at SMBSC and quickly became involved with the Renville County Relay for Life, raising money for the American Cancer Society.

In 2010, SMBSC decided to organize the first-ever Running to a Sweet Beet 5K, held in conjunction with Renville’s town celebration, Sugar Beet Days. Fifty-three people participated in the first race.

SMBSC is the sole sponsor of the event, financing the cost for a successful race and ensuring that all registration fees are donated to initiatives to fight cancer. Race proceeds are given to Renville County Walk in the Park, formerly Relay for Life.  Renville County Walk in the Park supports cancer patients locally in Renville County through emotional and supportive services as well as Hope Lodge.

What started as a modest community event has grown into a powerful force for a stronger, healthier community.

“The race draws together a diverse range of people: serious runners and casual walkers, seasoned athletes and young kids. It is truly inspiring to see how SMBSC has joined hands with our community to help support our friends and neighbors who are battling cancer,” Fagen said.

More than 260 people walked, jogged and ran to the beat during the 2019 race. Top runners in all divisions receive gift bags filled with sweet treats made with Minnesota-grown sugar during the closing ceremony. SMBSC’s 10th anniversary Running to the Sweet Beet 5K raised more than $6,600, bringing the total contributed to cancer initiatives from the race event alone to nearly $44,000 over ten years.

All told, SMBSC has contributed more than $154,000 to the fight against cancer.

Those donations will provide real support to a mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister in their fight against cancer.

SMBSC hopes to run – not walk – to a cancer-free future. What a sweet day that will be.