CITGO: On the Road to a Cure

by Kathy Wechsler on January 1, 2007 - 3:42pm

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 1

Since 1986, employees, marketers, retailers and customers of CITGO Petroleum Corp. have fueled MDA's mission to defeat neuromuscular diseases.

Houston-based CITGO is a leading manufacturer, refiner and supplier of transportation fuels, lubricants and other industrial products. Founded in 1910 as Cities Service Co., the CITGO name, combining "CIT" from Cities Service with "GO" to imply power and energy, was introduced in 1965.

In 1983, the Southland Corp. purchased CITGO to supply its chain of 7-Eleven convenience stores with gasoline. Since Southland was already involved with MDA, CITGO climbed on board as an MDA national sponsor and has stayed with the Association ever since.

CITGO President & CEO Felix M. Rodriguez is proud of CITGO's 21-year association with MDA and appreciates the dedication shown by CITGO's business associates and customers.

"At CITGO, we take great pride in helping our neighbors where we live and work. It's an attitude we encourage and foster among our employees," says Rodriguez, who's an MDA national vice president. "The Muscular Dystrophy Association has a special place in our hearts."

Revving up

As MDA's largest corporate sponsor, CITGO has been working hard for "Jerry's kids" for 21 years.

"Throughout the year, our employees conduct various fund-raising activities for MDA," Rodriguez says. "Our involvement goes even farther than that. CITGO marketers, retailers and, ultimately, customers all pitch in, too. It works well."

CITGO and its business associates support MDA through events such as the Shamrocks Against Dystrophy program; Black & Blue Balls; Muscle Team events; golf, bowling and fishing tournaments; auctions and walk-a-thons. Over nearly two decades, special events and donations gathered at CITGO-branded locations have raised more than $83 million for the Association's programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services and vital health information.

As part of CITGO in Action, a volunteer group run by employees of the CITGO national headquarters in Houston, members participate in the MDA Camp Drive, in which they collect food and camp supplies to donate to the local MDA summer camp. This group also sets up a booth to welcome campers as they arrive for a fun-filled week, help register campers, hand out water and load campers' wheelchairs and luggage.

During the 2006 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, Rodriguez, along with CITGO Vice President of Supply and Marketing Bill Hatch and General Manager/Light Oils Marketing Alan Flagg, presented Energy to Care checks totaling $8.8 million to MDA National Chairman Jerry Lewis and Telethon co-hosts. Six of CITGO's top fund-raising marketers were acknowledged and thanked on the national broadcast.

An amazing pit crew

One of the top fund-raising marketers is C.N. Brown, a Maine company that operates the Big Apple Food Stores and Red Shield Heating Oil in New England. C.N. Brown has been a branded CITGO distributor for 25 years.

"C.N. Brown did not know we were involved with MDA until we turned on the news one night," C.N. Brown President Jinger Duryea says jokingly. "Some of our frontline employees at that time had decided that they were going to raise some money for MDA, because in the next couple of weekends there was gonna be a Telethon down at Channel 13" (WGME in Portland, Maine).

One afternoon in 1985, two employees of a Portland Big Apple Food Store climbed on the roof and lowered a bucket to customers entering the store. They refused to come down until they had raised $1,000 for MDA.

A news crew from Channel 13 arrived and, Duryea recalls, "The weather guy did his forecast from the location and said to people, 'Hurry, people. Come to the Big Apple Store, put some money in this bucket and get these people off the roof, because there's a thunderstorm coming and they're gonna get fried.'"

"We saw this on the news and we thought, 'Well, I guess we're raising money for MDA.'"

Employees raised $3,000 that evening, and nobody got "fried." That was the beginning of C.N. Brown's support of MDA.

When CITGO, one of C.N Brown's gasoline suppliers, became an MDA national sponsor, C.N. Brown tripled its efforts by teaming up with CITGO to share MDA fund-raising ideas.

In 2006, C.N. Brown raised more than $263,000 through softball and golf tournaments, Shamrocks Against Dystrophy, canister collections, denim days, raffles, snowmobile rides and the Muscular Dystrophy Miracle Ball. They also held C.N. Brown Day at an MDA summer camp, giving employees an opportunity to meet some of the kids they're helping.

Racing for awareness

Professional racecar driver Milka Duno was introduced to MDA by CITGO shortly after the company became her primary racing sponsor in 2004. She learned of the importance of the CITGO-MDA partnership and began making periodic appearances at MDA special events.

Duno even accompanied CITGO representatives to the 2005 and 2006 MDA Telethons, and has appeared in MDA promotional materials and television public service announcements.

For the last two years, the CITGO-sponsored Pontiac racecar that Duno has driven in the Grand Am Rolex Series has featured a special MDA paint scheme. The paint job was created by CITGO to raise awareness of the Telethon during the few weeks preceding the national show.

"The MDA does so much for the people it serves and we want to help it do even more. It's a partnership we cherish," Rodriguez says.

"We plan to continue helping the MDA help others for a long time to come."

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