The Big Dig has raised more than $600,000 for the American Cancer Society by answering a fantasy the desire of a lot of people, young and old, to operate a piece of big construction equipment.
But the group of businesspeople that organizes The Big Dig meet another desire as well.
They've created tighter ties between the American Cancer Society and the business community, opening channels into businesses to spread the society's word about prevention and early detection of cancer.
David Knaub, the president of Reno-based K7 Construction Inc. and a member of the business group dubbed The Chairman's Circle, says the group had its beginnings in 1998.
Knaub and Paul Gianoli, a now-retired executive of Granite Construction, were looking for ways to allow businesses to play a greater part in delivering the mission of the American Cancer Society.
The Chairman's Circle, with a membership that averages about 12 at any time, plays a role in fundraising to support the American Cancer Society's research mission.
The group has spearheaded The Big Dig since its inception in 1999 this year's event is Sept. 23 at Patrick, along Interstate 80 east of Sparks and it's involved in other fundraising as well.
But equally important, Knaub says, is the group's focus on cancer-related education.
Regular sessions bring speakers on a range of cancer-related issues everything from the effects of cancer on health insurance rates to the ways that Nevada allocates the millions of dollars that flow from 1998's multi-state Tobacco Settlement.
Members of The Chairman's Circle then carry that information back to their own companies and help spread it among other owners of businesses large and small.
"I don't know what we would do without it," says Kyle Davis, district executive director of the cancer society.
Among the special goals of The Chairman's Circle is ensuring the well-being of young cancer patients. The Big Dig offers a chance for young patients and their families to have fun, and The Chairman's Circle has raised money to send youngsters to camps.
The Big Dig organizers have begun lining up sponsors for this year's event, providing sponsors with equipment operator tickets and other amenities. Donations also will sponsor participation by children from a Reno-area organization.