The power of engagement
Each year, Key Account Manager Gosse Smid volunteers at a unique fundraising challenge in memory of a colleague. Here, he shares his ‘why’, along with his pride in this annual event.

The Alpe d’HuZes challenge sees cyclists attempt to climb one of the principal mountains in the Tour de France no fewer than six times in one day.

Back in in 2009, my Elanco colleague and good friend Herman Houweling was determined to accomplish this extraordinary feat.

Herman been diagnosed with cancer and was utterly committed to driving the fight against the disease before he passed away. He’d also met many of what he called “beautiful personalities” in the swine industry over the course of his career and wanted to create a positive vibe around the industry, in contrast to sometimes negative press.

A passion for cycling led Herman to the Alpe d’HuZes event and, exceeding even his own high expectations, he raised an incredible €112,000 to help people with cancer live longer and healthier lives in this first year. He made a difference, and raised the bar on fundraising substantially.

My wife – a professional photographer – was asked to document this achievement in pictures, and she has gone back every year to capture the event on film.

Keen to ensure the enduring commitment to the cause after his death, Herman kickstarted ‘Big Challenge’, a dedicated swine industry team, which has since expanded to include members from the livestock industry as a whole. In fact, we’re by far the biggest team to take part in the Alpe d’HuZes – something I’m very proud of.

I’ve been involved since 2009 as one of the many Alpe d’HuZes volunteers; the event sticks to a strict no overheads policy, to make sure every Euro donated goes straight to the cause. On my motorbike, I follow the course to check on participants and steward members, while my wife takes photographs from the back of the bike for the media.

Our fundraising target this time was €1million, and each year I’m struck by how well the industry works together towards a common goal. Competitors from feedmills, vet practices, accountancy firms and suppliers all cooperate in a single team.

It makes me very proud to see how all these ‘beautiful personalities’ in the farming community can make such a difference. And I’m thankful to work for an organisation that’s willing to support Big Challenge. It shows that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves.

About Big Challenge

  • This year’s event on June 2 saw the participation of 225 Big Challenge team members.
  • Big Challenge raised more than €1million for cancer research at this year’s event.
  • From 2009 onwards, Big Challenge has raised more than €6million.


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