Last Thursday, August 8, Redwood Logistics held its seventh annual Redwood Games, a competition between teams of Redwood employees, at Montrose Beach just north of Chicago. Redwood Logistics is a large freight brokerage and managed transportation provider based in Chicago with over $1 billion in freight under management.
Each year, a different charity is selected to be the beneficiary of the Redwood Games. The 2018 Redwood Games raised $75,000 for Heroes and Horses, a Montana-based nonprofit that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder heal through the use of equine therapy and expeditions. This year, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, known as JDRF, was selected to be the beneficiary, and the Games raised $130,000 for the charity.
JDRF was founded in 1970 to find a cure for juvenile diabetes but later broadened its research and lobbying efforts to include advanced medical devices that manage the disease, as well as advocacy for stem cell research. According to Charity Navigator, JDRF scored 97/100 on Accountability & Transparency, and in 2018 spent $163 million on its programs.
In 2018, JDRF provided 13,200 Bags of Hope to newly diagnosed children. The Bag of Hope is a backpack filled with information about living with diabetes and resources about health insurance, nutrition, and promising clinical trials, a teddy bear with diabetes named Rufus, and a children’s book about Rufus.
For about three months leading up to the Games, teams of Redwood employees compete to raise money for the charity by conducting raffles, bringing amenities into the office like taco bars, or hosting happy hours.
The teams found creative ways to raise money – one team charged Redwood’s brokers to pet a team member’s dog. Another team auctioned off the choice of their team member’s first tattoo. Some teams sold White Claw to their fellow freight brokers, while another team hosted a FIFA video game tournament. A dunk tank alone raised $4,000. The teams held more than 100 separate fundraisers in the lead-up to the Games.
After points are awarded based on how much money each team raises, Redwood employees are transported by bus to Montrose Beach. The first event is a scavenger hunt on the beach, but the catch is that all the members of a team are tied together. Half the teams are eliminated, and the remainder compete in a series of jousting contests and a tug-of-war. The brokers celebrate afterwards with dancing – this year Redwood flew in DJ Sammy Bananas from Brooklyn to play a set. The annual Games are considered an integral part of Redwood Logistics’ work hard, play hard culture, and are a chance for employees from across the country to come together.
Redwood president Todd Berger’s eight year-old son, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes last year, gave a moving speech at the Games.
This year, a team from Redwood’s Atlanta branch – which it just added in January 2019 through the acquisition of LTX Solutions – won the Games.
Redwood chief operating officer Tim Zelasko said that about 550 people participated in the games in 30 teams averaging 18 people per team. Zelasko praised Lauren Goldberg, an executive assistant at Redwood, who does the work of organizing the fundraising competition and the Games.
“At its core, the Games represent all of our collective cultures coming together in what is now Redwood Logistics,” Zelasko said. “It’s a good reminder, especially in a market that can be challenging, to get everyone out of the office and do something for charity and have fun, that it’s bigger than just coming in every day to do transport and logistics.”
Zelasko said that Redwood was grateful to its private equity sponsor, CI Capital Partners, and its chief executive officer, Mark Yeager, for continuing to hold the Games, which have become increasingly elaborate and expensive as Redwood has scaled.
“Mark Yeager has been an incredible shepherd of keeping our culture intact and keeping this going,” Zelasko said, noting that when the Games first started, Redwood was a company of about 50 people.