“‘Love what you do and do what you love’ is the perfect quote to describe Cheri White and her relationship with ballooning and Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.”
-John Petrehn, Touchstone Energy hot air balloon pilot and two-time World Champion
On Thursday, May 8, Cheri White, Cooperative Balloon Associates general manager and chief pilot of the Touchstone Energy hot air balloon, was honored as the 2019 Brand Champion.
The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Brand Champion award pays tribute to brand leaders in our network who have made exceptional contributions towards building the brand locally, regionally and nationally. Cheri’s achievement was announced at the 2019 CONNECT Conference in Houston, TX, Cheri’s home state.
“Cheri White’s passion and enthusiasm for Touchstone Energy is second to none,” Mike Wilson, vice president/senior director of marketing and communications at Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, told us. “The continuity of the Touchstone Energy message has been spread far and wide for the last 20 years. It has certainly become a recognized and respected symbol thanks to Cheri’s dedication.”
Cheri, a member of Pedernales Electric Cooperative, has proudly served as a Touchstone Energy Brand Ambassador for the last 20 years, literally displaying the Touchstone Energy emblem on the hot air balloon.
Cheri told us, “I feel very fortunate to have been involved from day one with the balloon program. It has been a wonderful job for me to work from home, raise my children and meet so many wonderful people along the way. I always look forward to seeing my co-op friends each year! I look forward to the next 20 years.”
Cheri White flew the very first Touchstone Energy branded hot air balloon in 1999 when she attached a Touchstone Energy banner to her personal balloon at the National Hot Air Balloon Championship held in Rantoul, Illinois. Shortly after, Cheri became the first official pilot of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives hot air balloon program. In 2002, she assumed the role of chief operating officer of Cooperative Balloon Associates, in addition to her piloting duties. She continues to serve in both roles today.
Cheri was also the pilot for the Touchstone Energy hot air balloon when it, along with 14 other hot air balloons, set a new world record crossing the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountain Balloon Challenge on December 8, 2001.
Under Cheri’s leadership, the Touchstone Energy hot air balloon has become a recognized and respected symbol. Because of her commitment and dedication, the program is now the second longest tenured corporate balloon program in the country.
“Cheri is one of the very best balloon pilots in the world and a true ambassador for the sport of ballooning and for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. Cheri is always one to give back, both to ballooning and to community, so partnering with Touchstone Energy Cooperatives’ commitment to community and the philanthropic program has been a winning combination for everyone for over 20 years,” John Petrehn also told us.
In fact, through the leadership of Cheri White, the hot air balloon program has demonstrated its commitment to community by giving more than $320,000 back to local communities in philanthropic donations.
John explained, “Cheri’s love for ballooning is contagious and whether she is in a small town in rural America or in the largest city in the world, you will find Cheri sharing her love of ballooning, educating members about Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and creating memorable experiences for everyone.”
This is evident in Cheri’s community engagement practices. Under Cheri’s direction and guidance, the balloon program has been involved in over 650 balloon events, festivals and annual meetings. It’s estimated that Cheri and the other balloon pilots have interacted with more than 100,000 people at those events. The media impressions have generated numbers in the millions.
“Since the national brand was formed, Cheri has led our signature program and has represented Touchstone Energy as the face of the brand in our communities. Cheri is the epitome of the values we stand for and we are proud and honored to have Cheri represent our cooperative network as the brand champion,” said Touchstone Energy Executive Director Lynn Moore.
In addition to these cooperative achievements, Cheri is the current President of the Balloon Federation of America, the 1999 and 2016 Women’s National Hot Air Balloon Champion, third place finisher in the 2016 World Hot Air Women’s Championship, 2008 and 2012 America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Competition Champion and the third place finisher of the 2009 Coupe Aeronautic Gordon Bennett, the most prestigious event in aviation.
Cheri is not only admired for her deep knowledge of her craft, but more importantly, for her kind-hearted, humble, calming and encouraging disposition.
“More than anyone I know in the entire history of Touchstone Energy, Cheri stands tallest as the personification of the values of our brand. Think about it; in hundreds of local events over twenty years, she has been the face and the voice of what Touchstone Energy – and your cooperative – is all about.
With her patience, glorious smile, deep knowledge of her craft and her simple humanity, consumer-members in co-ops far and wide have witnessed the cooperative spirit as she lives it every moment of every day.
Cheri provides all of us a powerful enduring lesson for our own lives: positivity, authenticity, integrity, Cheri lifts us up and reminds of the power of the cooperative spirit.”
-Jim Bausell, Retired COO, Touchstone Energy (2001-2013)