Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s (BCBSNE) annual fundraising campaign combined time honored traditions with new ideas to support United Way of the Midlands (UWM).

For more than 30 years, BCBSNE has raised funds for UWM, a nonprofit dedicated to the education, financial and health needs of the community.

The fundraising festivities began with the Young Professionals Connect Trivia Challenge, a new event putting employees’ knowledge of Nebraska to use.

To compete, employees created teams of five and completed six rounds of questions. Corey McCallan, Agile project manager II and trivia challenge volunteer, said the challenge was inspired by other successful events hosted in the community.

“We were looking to bring in something that would create positive energy and help raise funds for the cause,” McCallan said. “The event was a success on so many levels. There was a great buzz in the room.”

BCBSNE employees also tackled the challenges of a new outdoor activity, Nine Square in the Air. Teams of five competed to take home bragging rights for mastering the volleyball-like game.

For some, including the Sith Happens team dressed as Star Wars characters, creativity was a big draw to sign up.

“We’re all Star Wars nerds and Darth Vader [Clint Williams, vice president of pharmacy and wellness] came up with our name, so we rallied around putting together fun costumes in the name of charity,” Joann Schaefer, executive vice president of health delivery engagement, said.

Boo baskets, a traditional campaign activity enabling employees to send candy and popcorn treats to their coworkers as a sweet, anonymous surprise, remained part of the 2019 campaign. Ally Natho, claims manager and a campaign volunteer, said she enjoyed making the deliveries.

“It was so much fun to see the joy on everyone’s faces,” Natho said. “Knowing we were a part of brightening someone’s day really warms the heart.”

Natho and Melissa Manzer, Agile project manager II, assisted in organizing BCBSNE’s silent auction, an annual campaign event. Individuals and teams created and donated baskets for employees to bid on.

Manzer said she’s glad BCBSNE provides employees with volunteer opportunities.

“The teamwork, willingness to help and thoughtfulness that went into the silent auction were the best parts of the event,” Manzer said. “I was thrilled to be a part of the campaign.”

This year, BCBSNE raised $468,480 for UWM.

Steve Konnath, vice president of actuarial, underwriting and data and analytics, co-chaired the 2019 campaign with Gretchen Twohig, general counsel. Konnath said BCBSNE’s strong support of the community is one of the main reasons he wanted to work for the company.

“I’m extremely impressed with the experienced team of volunteers that lead and coordinate all of the activities each year,” Konnath said. “Nothing compares to the core United Way team here at Blue Cross. I take my hat off to them.”

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