How do pink beers, pink T-shirts and pink guitars help a local business support a local cause? These are just a few of the items Russian River Brewing Company co-owner Natalie Cilurzo has sold and auctioned off to support Sutter breast cancer services in Santa Rosa.
During the past decade, Natalie, her husband and their staff have raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support breast cancer care and services provided by Sutter. In 2015, they proudly contributed $143,000. Since 2008, they’ve donated more than $550,000!
Each October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Russian River Brewing Company holds a month-long fundraiser for Sutter. Staff members dye their hair pink and sell pink T-shirts and a special beer brew (Framboise for A Cure, a barrel-aged sour blonde ale colored pink with fresh raspberries). They auction off donated items and solicit support from community members, partners and businesses.
“At the end of the fundraiser we invite breast cancer survivors and Sutter reps to the brewpub and unveil ‘the big check’ on the stage that shows how much we were able to raise,” Natalie says. “It’s so fun and rewarding to present the check and see the expressions in the crowd. We see that we’re helping real people, and that makes it so meaningful.”
The Russian River Brewing Company has enjoyed tremendous success and a loyal following in the community. Over the years the business, which includes two breweries and one brewpub, has grown to employ nearly 100 staff members and has expanded its beer distribution to three states in addition to California. Natalie says partnering with and supporting local organizations like Sutter is a natural extension of being a local business owner.
“The more you give, the more you get,” Natalie says. “There are marketing and tax benefits, but I’m talking about benefits in a greater sense. It’s about giving back to the community that supports your business, showing your customers and staff that you’re committed to helping others, being a positive role model, and enjoying the personal benefits that come with helping others. Even if you can’t afford to give money, you can always support local causes through volunteering.”
According to Natalie, the spirit of giving is contagious. Local individuals and businesses have consistently stepped up to donate items for the auction. These items have included a pink scooter, pink bicycle and the now-legendary pink guitar made by a local artist/musician who ups the ante each year with an even more impressive, intricate design.
“Whether you donate money or time, I encourage all businesses to support important causes in their communities,” Natalie says. “Everyone has something they care about and believe in. So just get out there and get involved.”