Inspired by Survivors: Shirts for a Cure

Nearly a century ago, Walter Emerson founded W.S. Emerson Company Inc., then a wholesale apparel company. In the early 1930s the Vickery family acquired the business, and it’s still a family-owned and operated business today. The company has expanded over the years from wholesale apparel to branded and promotional products. “I began working in the family business more than 23 years ago,” says their vice president, Betsy Vickery. “It’s personal because we strive to provide a great work environment, a creative place where people can learn, grow, and feel good about coming to work each day.”

With 42 full-time employees, W.S. Emerson is an exceptional employer in the Brewer, Maine area. “It’s a unique company,” says Abbie Puiia, marketing specialist and team leader.

While Abbie is not a part of the family that started W.S. Emerson Company, she feels the company is still very much run as if they are one big family. “The length of time a lot of our employees have been with us is a testament to that,” she says. “I came in and asked people, ‘Oh, how long have you been with the company?’ It wasn’t six months or even five years—it was 10, 20, even 50 years. It’s nice to find an organization that cares about you. I think that the employees appreciate that, and it shows.”

Proud to participate

Caring for others runs deep in the W.S. Emerson Company and Vickery family, and there’s no better example of that than their long-standing support for the Champion the Cure Challenge, a cycling, paddling, and run/walk event put on by the regional medical organization Northern Light Health to help find a cure for cancer. Since its inception, each year more than 6,000 adults and 2,000 children have raised more than $4 million to support treatment, trials, and research at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. The Challenge celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2019, and W.S. Emerson Company has provided branded products such as staff, volunteer, and participant T-shirts, along with various promotional products for the event from the beginning. “It’s all about the relationship,” says Betsy. “We’ve worked with this organization for a very long time, and we’re excited by the opportunity to offer a unique experience for their staff and participants each year.”

The production of shirts for the event is no small feat: each year, the W.S. Emerson Company team gets behind this exciting project for such a great cause. Printing anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 shirts for the event, W.S. Emerson collaborates with Champion the Cure on the design. “Our team feels even more connected to the cause,” says Abbie. “It’s something we look forward to creating and participating in each year.”

A call to action

Perhaps the most striking part of W.S. Emerson Company’s involvement in The Challenge is their dedication to creating several different designs for the participants’ shirts. Volunteers and children get special shirts, but it’s seeing the “cancer survivor” shirts that makes Betsy emotional each year. “It’s touching. It really is,” she says. “It’s encouraging to see the survivors at the event, participating, feeling good, taking part, and knowing they’re surrounded by the support of their community to help find a cure.”

It’s this image, Betsy says, that she carries with her while working on this special project each year. “This disease affects family, friends, and our community in several ways,” she says. “Why not commit, participate, and be engaged to help inspire a great cause. It’s just part of our ethos, and we feel grateful to be able to do it.”

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