What Sweep Away Cancer Is All About

What does chimney sweeping have to do with breast cancer? Good question. Did you know that 85% of people booking appointments with chimney sweeps are women?

This percentage was mentioned by a keynote speaker at the 2015 National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) Convention in Lancaster, PA, and left a big impact on one of Sweep Away Cancer’s founders, Tommy Nelms (founder of Sweeps & Ladders Chimney Service). On the flight home, Tommy wondered, “How can we give back to those who have given us so much?” That’s when he remembered his years as a firefighter. Every October, his fire department wore pink shirts to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. The fight against breast cancer is near and dear to Tommy’s heart, as he lost his mother-in-law to the disease. Tommy thought, “Couldn’t those of us in the chimney industry commit to giving back to women by raising money and awareness for cancer as well?”

As soon as the plane landed, Tommy called his good friend (and local competitor), Mark Stoner (founder of Ashbusters Chimney Service), who always says, “If you have a good idea, share it!” and Darin Bibeau, the President of National Chimney Supply. They decided to commit to this movement together, but wondered if they could take it even further.

From there, they shared their mission with those in Tommy’s MIX group, including Hope Stevenson, David & Sharon Lamb, Bill Murphy, Jake & Jessica Cromwell, Patrick & Alex Tinsley, Duane Bibeau, Mark & Katie Maynard, Doug & Frances Hetsch, Chuck Hall, Chuck Roydhouse, and Kirby Ragland. Every single person they shared their idea with wanted to be a part of this worthy cause.

Companies bought t-shirts for their team members, solicited donations, and even donated a percentage of their chimney sweeping proceeds for the month of October.

In the first year alone (with virtually no time to get the word out before Breast Cancer Awareness Month and just a handful of companies involved), Sweep Away Cancer was able to raise over $15,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Mark had a trophy made for the company that raised the most money that first October and presented it to Chuck Hall at the 2016 NCSG Convention in Orlando, FL.

Because of everyone’s willingness, excitement, and effort, in less than a month, Sweep Away Cancer had gone from an idea to a movement that was making a difference. Now a 501(c)(3) with a Board of Directors that oversees all monies raised, Sweep Away Breast Cancer is able to disseminate funds to multiple organizations and those in need. And it all started with a desire to give back and make a difference in the lives of women.

Darin Bibeau and National Chimney Supply had t-shirts and koozies made by 185 Promotions in Indianapolis, IN, who graciously agreed to make them at their cost. Hope Stevenson, the facilitator for a couple of other MIX groups, decided to help by getting her other MIX groups involved. Jillian Stewart of Anderson’s Chimney created all of the social media efforts for Sweep Away Breast Cancer. National Chimney Supply sent out an email blast to all of their clients and shipped out all t-shirts and koozies. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the NCSG sent out email blasts to their members. Jerry Isenhour and CVC Coaching let their clients know how they can get involved using Facebook Live. Spark Marketer built a new website for the movement at no charge.

Those involved will tell you that what makes the chimney industry special is that the men and women in the industry truly care about one another. Mark and Tommy are competitors, yet they came together to start something bigger than themselves. That may be rare for many industries, but it’s not rare in the chimney industry. There are many competing companies that join forces and raise money together each October.

Launching this movement has truly been a group effort – one inspired by Tommy’s old fire department – that has gone global. Are you ready to join the movement and give back? Join us as we work to Sweep Away Breast Cancer!