KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — Kyle Poff discovered something special six years ago about people in construction and other trades when he and his father, Stan Poff, launched the Nebraska Chapter of Concrete Cares.
Founded by a Kansan who dreamed of pouring a slab of pink concrete in all 50 states, Concrete Cares helps families fighting cancer.
In their first year of Concrete Cares in 2013, the father-son Poff duo at Kearney Concrete raised about $4,000. It was a humble beginning, but as word spread, Nebraskans dug into their billfolds and volunteered their time. To date, Concrete Cares of Nebraska has given families more than $270,000. The money is given to be used as needed.
The response to Concrete Cares of Nebraska has been amazing, Kyle said, about its supporters. “They’re wanting to help because someone they know has had cancer.”
He told the Kearney Hub it’s been gratifying to witness how tradespeople embrace Concrete Cares. There are strong contingents in Kearney as well as in Norfolk and Plainview in northeast Nebraska, along with support from Cozad and Lincoln.
Knowing so many people care became important to Poff when, in 2014 — two years after he and his father founded the Nebraska chapter of Concreter Cares — Kyle discovered he had leukemia.
Unlike other cancers that attack single organs, leukemia is a blood disease. Wherever blood flows, so does leukemia. Few people survive five years. The rate drops drastically after that. Kyle doesn’t talk much about his treatment, but it started with seven straight days of chemotherapy. Today, he takes a daily regimen of medicines. Every six weeks he receives a transfusion.
It has been six years since his diagnosis.
Kyle’s leukemia now is in remission, but the disease has set him back.
He’s lost stamina. His lungs are at less than 40% capacity, but he presses on.
Colleagues in the concrete industry have noticed Kyle’s efforts and they’ve been inspired.
Jereme Montgomery of the American Concrete Institute in Nebraska nominated Kyle for the International Chapter Activity Award. The honor recognizes contributions to society and to the professionalism of the concrete industry.
Kyle is among only four Chapter Activity Award recipients in the world this year.
“He has never used his diagnosis as an excuse to miss any meeting or programs,” Montgomery said in his nomination. “Many times, he even may start his day before 4 a.m. just to attend a board meeting or other educational programs. You can see he is tired, but he will never admit it. Therefore, he has always been an inspiration as we have watched him over the past six years.”
In the nomination Montgomery mentioned Kyle’s leadership with Concrete Cares of Nebraska, and he also noted Kyle’s contributions to his industry.
Kyle’s father, Stan, said when he started Kearney Concrete 40 years ago there were only a handful of mix designs, or formulas. Today, depending upon how the concrete will be used, there are dozens of ways the concrete is mixed, placed and cured.
“I used to think that concrete is concrete,” Stan said, but precision is necessary at each step in the process.
Montgomery said Kyle has been instrumental in advancing professionalism and the skill level in Nebraska. Kearney Concrete provides a classroom and laboratory in which Nebraskans are trained and certified. Kyle became a certification examiner and filled the leadership chairs of the Nebraska chapter of the American Concrete Institute. He is the group’s past president, and was key in establishing the first ACI student chapter in 2013 and 2014 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Kearney Concrete Co. has always been a supporter of UNK’s construction management program,” Montgomery said. The company has sponsored students’ attendance at ACI conventions and local programs.
Montgomery said ACI needed a spark in central and western Nebraska.
“With a lot of activity always taking place in the Lincoln and Omaha areas, the ACI chapter felt it was crucial to create more activity in the western part of Nebraska. Kyle was our link to make that happen.”
Kyle said he appreciates the opportunities he’s had in his industry, especially through Concrete Cares. Kearney Concrete’s out-front support for the cancer charity is evident in its trucks and their distinctive pink drums where concrete is mixed.
When the idea for a sized-down concrete truck that could double as a rolling stereo and barbecue grill came up, there was plenty of help to make it happen.
Turner Body Shop donated labor to paint the truck, Miller Signs did the graphics, NAPA donated paint, and Kearney Concrete’s Jack “of-all-trades” Berry did the custom metal fabrication.
The colorful truck tows a tandem axle trailer stocked with Concrete Cares T-shirts and sweaters. A Polaris Slingshot three-wheel car with custom purple paint — also by Turner — rides in the rear.
Kyle said the attention generated by the custom haulers and three-wheel car helps boost Concrete Cares fundraising. Recently, 264 people participated in an off-road poker run at Burwell for Concrete Cares.
In Kyle’s award nomination, Montgomery said Kearney Concrete and Concrete Cares drum up lots of positive attention, and that’s good for the industry. “This has had a profound impact, shining a positive light on community service.”
Kyle said he just prefers to keep the focus on families hurting from cancer. “When you get the diagnosis, from that day on your life changes.”