By Kim Watson
For the Star-Gazette
The Illinois River is 1,118 miles long and Beardstown sits on mile 88 of the river.
Seeing barge traffic on the Illinois River is not an unusual sight when the river is below flood stage. In fact in 2010, 16,928 barges traveled the Illinois River. Each barge can haul up to 1,500 tons!
Barges can transport many different types of cargo, both dry and liquid. Dry cargo are products such as grain, fertilizers, stone, sand and coal. Liquid cargo might include petroleum, oils, and other chemicals. The Illinois River is typically used for dry cargo. Most of the barge fleet in the U.S. provides for 85 percent of dry cargo. The Illinois and Mississippi rivers provide families with economic stability by providing over 400,000 jobs.
Rivers have created links among people for years, creating easy passage for travelers as well as entertainment. On almost any given day the river is host to boats and barges of all sizes and shapes. Now Beardstown has become part of something that will tum thousands of heads as it travels down the Illinois River. It carries something more than just dry cargo; it carries the message of hope.
Ceres Barge Lines, located in East St. Louis, is raising awareness of breast cancer and cancer in general with what started as an employee's vision. Vince Schu, an employee of Ceres Barge, brought an idea to his boss that he and his wife envisioned; it was to create Big Hope 1. The Schus had been affected by cancer like millions of people and wanted to raise awareness. Mark Fletcher was skeptical about the idea but made Vince a proposal. If he could come up with the paint, then he would put their vision into production. It did not take Vince long to bring Sherwin-Williams on board to assist with the project. Soon more pink paint than anyone could imagine was ready to be applied. Fletcher made good on his deal and involved Jeff boat to provide the needed labor to paint the 200 by 35 foot barge pink. When people look down the river and see a big pink barge they begin to wonder what is going on. Pink is not a color that · many people would expect to see on a barge.
Big Hope l docked in Beardstown at American Inland Ports a week ago to be filled with grain from H & B Specialties of Pleasant Plains. It was loaded with approximately 60,000 bushels of com. It carries the message of hope for a cure to cancer.
H & B Specialties was the first customer to load com on this barge on May 21, 2012 and continues to support the message of cancerawareness. Ceres is committed to the long haul with this project and plans to donate proceeds to this cause for many years.
Big Hope I has traveled inland over the past three and a half years to several different rivers such as the Ohio, Arkansas, Mississippi and Illinois. Ceres Barge is in hope that when people see the big pink barge on their waterways, they will ask questions. The questions will lead to conversations and to donations. Ceres Barge donates a percent of the net earnings each year collected from Big Hope to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center in Dallas, Texas. Ceres encourages those who are moved by the Big Hope l to make a donation directly to www.marycrowley.org.