Donors in Phoenix, Arizona, recently dug deep into their pockets to help kids with cancer, and PCL was in the middle of the action.

Mike McKinney is the senior vice president, Civil with PCL’s Civil Infrastructure Division in Phoenix. He’s also a member of the board of directors and was co-chair for the annual Big Dig for Kids fundraiser. This year’s event was the seventh annual edition and took place on Saturday, November 5. It gave Phoenix Children’s patients the chance to operate and interact with heavy machinery. Companies from across the Phoenix-area construction community came together to donate their time and equipment.

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” McKinney says. “Watching a burly, bearded operator gently pick up a little boy in a wheelchair and take him over to the equipment to help him operate it — the look of joy on the child’s face and how gentle this giant man is, it just puts it all in perspective.”

A total of 2,300 people, including 1,200 kids, attended this year’s event, along with 300 volunteers to made sure things ran smoothly.

This year, PCL sponsored two booths with construction- and water-themed activities and giveaways. PCL mascot Bidwell the beaver was also on hand to take photos with kids and their families. Altogether, the event raised $750,000 for pediatric cancer research and treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Seeing a year’s worth of planning come to fruition on the day of the event is very satisfying for McKinney.

“Like any construction project, you’re extremely proud of it when it comes off without a hitch,” he says. “I think it’s even more satisfying because you know what you’re doing has a higher purpose.”

Since its inception in 2016, Big Dig for Kids has raised nearly $2 million for Phoenix Children’s through corporate sponsorships and donations. The money has gone to pediatric cancer research and the Phoenix Children’s Hope Fund, which helps pay for state-of-the-art equipment, innovative clinical programs and family-centered care. This year, funds raised were earmarked to set up a treatment room for a new type of radiation therapy for pediatric neuroblastoma patients that was previously unavailable in Arizona.

“Mike McKinney’s dedication as co-chair of the 2022 Big Dig for Kids Committee is deeply appreciated by all of us here at the Phoenix Children’s Foundation. Our mission has benefited greatly from Mike’s generosity and commitment,” says Lauren Fadden, Phoenix Children’s corporate development officer.

McKinney has been an active member of the Big Dig for Kids board since 2017. When he was asked to co-chair this year, he jumped at the chance.

“We’re a hands-on board; we’re not a sit-back-and-direct board,” says McKinney, who will stay on as co-chair for next year’s event. “We’re actually out there setting up, cleaning up trash, running the day.”

He hopes that Big Dig for Kids not only provides kids with happiness on the day of the event, but also inspiration in the future.

“We’re able to give kids exposure to construction and engineering, hopefully to generate more interest in construction as a career when they grow up,” McKinney says. “Someday, I hope a kid comes back and says, ‘I’m in construction because of Big Dig for Kids.’”