Kroger and Riley: "It feels so good to make a difference."
Year after year, individuals and companies step up to help Riley kids. Riley Children’s Foundation is grateful for every one of them who helps our mission.
Kroger is one of our longtime supporters and the sponsor of this year’s The Gift of Hope Happens Here holiday season giving campaign. Today, Kroger spokesperson Eric Halvorson shares some insights into the great partnership between Kroger and Riley.
Q: Tell us about your role with Kroger - what your favorite things about your job?
A: My title is “Manager of Corporate Affairs” for the Central Division of Kroger. I am the spokesman for the 140 stores in our division, but my office also handles the philanthropic commitments of the division and there is even a government relations component to the job. If we need to share a Kroger message in the General Assembly, I’m likely to be the person offering that testimony. So, this job allows me to use some skills from my old TV news job but in interesting new ways.
Q: Can you describe the ways Kroger is now supporting Riley?
A: Our biggest Kroger commitment to Riley happens every summer in the Race for Riley. It has become a combination of events – from the annual go-kart race organized by John Andretti and Dave “the King” Wilson, to the Progressive Dinner, and fundraising within the stores.
I’ve been so impressed by the personal commitments made by Kroger employees. Our executives challenge each store manager, then it becomes a competition to see who can raise the most money. Each store wants to win -- not just for the internal bragging rights but because everyone at Kroger knows how important Riley is to Indiana. The awareness of Riley is also evident in the outpouring of support from Kroger customers. They are incredibly generous people. Kroger is also the sponsor of the amazing Riley Champions program, and this year we are proud to be sponsoring The Gift of Hope Happens Here statewide holiday season giving campaign.
Q: Why is this partnership between Kroger and Riley so important?
A: The partnership is important because so many of us have a connection to Riley. If our children didn’t get some treatment there, it is quite likely we know someone who did. Riley has been saving lives for decades and Kroger is proud to have a role in supporting the innovative medical care provided by Riley Hospital for Children.
Q: Any favorite moments with Riley kids you’d like to share?
A: We all enjoyed watching a young man named Garrett Adams, who was one of last year’s Riley Champions. He’s a young go-kart racer with the stage presence of an IndyCar veteran. He impressed Kroger executives so much that we had him speak to a meeting of our division leadership team. Mason Metzger, now a college student, inspires people with his optimistic spirit and determination. Bella Simons is another intriguing example. She has been through so much in her life, including a brain tumor and a recent stroke. She is about to face another surgery, yet she is committed to helping other critically ill children and fundraising through the Carmel High School Dance Marathon for Riley.
Q: What rewards can a company, a family or an individual receive from supporting Riley?
A: Supporting an organization such as Riley Hospital for Children can be a source of immense personal satisfaction. It’s hard to find a more meaningful mission than helping kids. Supporting an organization such as Riley can also be valuable from a purely business perspective. I recently read about the importance of community involvement as a recruiting and retention tool. Many people, especially millennials, want to work for companies that are committed to public service.
Q: What’s your perspective on the relevance of philanthropic involvement in one’s community?
A: The philanthropic side of my job may be the most challenging work I do. Every day my office receives requests for donations from all over our division – that’s most of Indiana, most of Illinois, and parts of Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. We don’t have the budget to support every request. And I’ve learned there is more good, important work being done than most people realize.
I’ve met the leaders of large organizations and small who are feeding people, or clothing them, or rescuing them from a variety of tragic circumstances. Although we can’t do everything, all of us can do something to help others. It feels so good to make a difference for a charity group we care about.
Q: Any fun facts about yourself, or hidden talents, you can let us in on?
A: My wife and I took ballroom dancing lessons for a while. She’s good at it. I am not. I agreed to participate in a local “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser and that convinced me to stick with it a bit.
I’m grateful I found this opportunity at Kroger. I am enjoying the chance to be part of the food industry. I’m learning new trends and getting business insights that were never possible in the minute-and-a-half world of the average TV news story. I also love Indy and I couldn’t imagine starting over somewhere else. As a grandpa now, I wanted to stay close to my grandson and granddaughter. My wife and I love being just a few minutes away from them and the rest of our family here.
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