BIG HOPE 1 brings awareness to cancer research this holiday season

Written by Heather Ervin
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Big pink barge has been used to raise money for cancer research since 2012

This Christmas, the pink barge BIG HOPE 1 will sail to Five Rivers Distribution in Van Buren, Ark., for a new spin on the annual cancer fundraising event now being called the Christmas, COVID, Cancer Challenge, with a goal of raising $100,000 to cancer research.

Vince Schu and his wife Julie, who have both had their families impacted by cancer, inspired BIG HOPE 1. Schu is a long-time East St. Louis, Ill.,-based Ceres Barge Line employee in charge of the heavy lift division. It was he who arranged with Sherwin-Williams to donate the pink paint for the barge.

Mark Fletcher, manager at Ceres Barge, convinced the now defunct Jeffboat shipyard, Jeffersonville, Ind., to put in the extra labor to paint the barge and make sure it looked exceptional on the day it was launched.

The barge was launched in May 2012, and Ceres Barge agreed at that time to contribute a percentage of the net earnings from BIG HOPE 1 to fund cancer research for a minimum of five years. Mary Crowley Cancer Research in Dallas, Texas, was chosen as the recipient of those donations. Since then, BIG HOPE 1 has been used to raise money to advance cancer research and impact patients. Through Ceres Barge and its vast network of philanthropic customers and vendors, the BIG HOPE 1 has generated donations of more than $1,000,000 to Mary Crowley Cancer Research.

Making things a bit more challenging this year is the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that hasn’t deterred the company and the inland river industry from wanting to make a difference. Marty Shell, president of Five Rivers Distribution, is personally donating $5,000 to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research in memory of his father.

Ceres Barge Line and its affiliated company Ceres Consulting LLC provide barge freight management, logistic services and consulting to a variety of bulk and project cargo importers and exporters. The company also owns and manages hopper and deck barges and acts as an agent for investors in barges. Ceres Barge also specializes in barge transportation, logistics, and consulting for a variety of allied industries.

To donate directly to Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, visit and put BIG HOPE in the comments section on the donation page.

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