Riders at RAGBRAI–Photo by Alissa Atkinson

By Alissa Atkinson–Iowa State University PRSSA Chapter

Today kicks off the 36th annual RAGBRAI event, which just so happens to be the first RAGBRAI I have ever witnessed.  And I must say, seeing the energy and enthusiasm behind so many individuals was very refreshing.  Since leaving Underwood today I have thought multiple times about making the trip across Iowa myself in the near future.  On that note, I had the opportunity to meet two wonderful individuals today who are very excited about RAGBRAI and most importantly, the role that Tyson is playing in the event. I got the chance to sit down and chat with them a bit, and they shared with me many details about what they are doing here and why they are doing it.

Sherri Austin and Andrea Sherwood, Tyson employees from the corporate office in Arkansas had been up since 4 a.m. this morning.  Tyson employees set up the tent in Underwood at 5 a.m. They sold cheese omelet tortillas, western omelet tortillas, grilled chicken sandwiches and water, all of which was donated by Tyson.  All of the proceeds would then go the Neola Food Bank, as Tyson’s philanthropy is centered on hunger relief. Tomorrow they will be setting up a tent in Kimballton, where they will be ready to serve breakfast by 6 a.m. Tomorrows proceeds will go to the Nebraska Food Bank Network. By the end of the week, Tyson will have made generous donations to every America Second Harvest Food Bank in Iowa.  Last year, through fundraising at RAGBRAI, Tyson donated over 100,000 dollars to Iowa food banks.  This doesn’t happen without long hours and hard work from volunteers.  “Tyson volunteers work about 99 hours the week of RAGBRAI”, Austin said.

Although Tyson employees apply their fundraising to hunger relief, many other organizations direct their proceeds to causes they find suitable.  Lauren Rollins of Underwood helped to sell cinnamon rolls, energy bars, pop, smoothies, water and granola bars.  The profits were going to the Southwest Iowa Honor Marching Band, as well as the Underwood Optimist Club.  Nicole Johnson, a student at Underwood High School gets involved with RAGBRAI for this first time this year.  She sold food and drinks with hopes of raising about 1,000 dollars to help she and 20 other Underwood students who are members of the Southwest Iowa Honor Marching Band raise the 27,000 dollars necessary for their trip to the Citrus Bowl this December.  The Kanesville Boys, a local band, performed singing songs and playing guitars. They sold Kanesville Boys merchandise, and also accepted donations for their band.

Whatever motivation there was to be at the RAGBRAI event in Underwood today, I believe it is safe to say that the people of Underwood hosted a great event. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and a lot of money was raised for crucial causes.  It was a successful first day of RAGBRAI and I’m happy to have been a part of it. 






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