Living the We CareSM Commitment: Giving Back
By Claire Masker
By nature, pig farmers are generous individuals and not just because one of the We CareSM ethical principles centers on caring for and giving back to their communities. Pig farmers always have given their time, donated pork and much more. Take Mary Heiller and Edan Bomgaars, both of whom grew up on pig farms and now work in the pork industry. The Pork Checkoff’s #RealPigFarming social media outreach recently shared how they were motivated to make life-saving donations for others.
Gift of a Normal Life
Heiller spends her days working with pig farmers and feed mills across the country for Cargill. “One thing that attracted me to pig farming was the type of people in the business,” said Heiller, from Boone, Iowa. “They’re very giving and care for their animals and the people in their community.”
In high school, Heiller gave back by teaching Sunday school, where a 3-year-old girl with medical challenges caught her attention. To preserve her health, the young girl needed two bone marrow transplants, prompting Heiller to join Be The Match Registry®, the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow registry. “I was sent a DNA kit, swabbed my cheeks, and that was that,” Heiller said. It is possible to sign up and never have a match.
But five years later in the spring of 2018, Heiller had one. “It was a little boy from somewhere in the U.S.,” she said.”Apart from that information, the donation was completely anonymous.” Heiller said donating was worth the considerable pain and time needed for recovery. Although she was not very public about her donation, she felt incredible support from Cargill throughout the process. “It was amazing to watch friends, family and co-workers sign up for the registry after my experience,” Heiller said. “To think there is a little boy out there who gets to go to school, be active and live a normal life is just incredible.”
Bomgaars works at RC Family Farms as an animal health and welfare coordinator. Her journey to stem cell donation through Be The Match Registry also started in her church. She joined the registry through a drive with her college youth group.
“I just did it and kind of forgot about it,” said Bomgaars of Sioux Center, Iowa. “I’ve never really had anybody in my life with cancer and had no connection to Be The Match at all.”
A year and a half later, her phone rang, and it was urgent. Bomgaars had a match with a 50-year-old woman, who reminded her of someone close to her. “I was like ‘Wow, this is like my 50-year-old mom. This is a no brainer; this is someone else’s mom,’” Bomgaars said. “I had the opportunity to save somebody’s life. I just had to show up. I didn’t even have to think about it.”
Countless more people in the farming community and beyond have chosen to help extend the lives of complete strangers who are someone’s child, someone’s coworker, someone’s mom. “I guess I never thought twice about my donation,” Bomgaars said. “I saw so much generosity from pork producers while I was growing up that donating was just second nature to me.