A Foundation is Born



The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation was born out of the interests, passions and persistence of Joe and Judy Roetheli, whose ongoing mission is to care for the welfare, guidance and success of diverse groups including the elderly, needy, entrepreneurs and pets. Formed by Joe and Judy Roetheli along with their sons, Steffan and Michael, and a distant relative from Switzerland, Serge Roetheli, the foundation was organized under Missouri law as a 501 (c) (3) charitable entity in 2003. The name for the Foundation derives directly from the Roetheli name and Swiss family lineage. When translated from Swiss German into English, Roetheli literally means “little red one”. Joe and Judy’s entrepreneurial business success started in 1996, when they began a quest to resolve their dog, Ivan’s, “disagreeable” breath. The discovery led to what would become the eighth largest pet food/treat company in the world and a dental treat known by many dogs and cats as “Greenies®”. Eventually Joe and Judy would sell their company to Mars, Inc., and begin a new adventure including a primary focus on the Lil’ Red Foundation.  Before selling the Greenies® Company in 2006, the company was actively involved in providing product donations to numerous events and organizations that care for pets. The donations helped many groups including the rescue dogs at the scene of 9/11, organizations that helped house, feed and care for dogs recovered after hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita, as well as guide dogs for the blind, police canine units, dog rescue organizations and service and therapy dog organizations. 


Both from humble beginnings, Joe & Judy Roetheli grew up with little means.  Judy, was born in a small town in Florida where sand streets were the order of the day.  Her father worked as a butcher and later as a salesman. Her mother cared for other neighborhood children, while taking care of her own five.  Several fateful states away, Joe grew up in Missouri on the edge of the Ozark Mountains. His father eked out an existence on a small farm and his mother worked in a shoe factory soon after Joe, his sister and brother had all started school.

Meanwhile on the other side of the globe, Joe’s Swiss relative, Serge, was achieving what some have called the “Greatest Endurance Feat in the History of Mankind”, as he ran the distance of the circumference of the world to show his endurance running ability and to raise awareness of the plight of children in Third World countries — 25,422 miles in 1,910 days, an average of running a marathon every other day for 63 months. Nicole, Serge’s wife, followed him on a motorcycle with a small trailer. Serge and Nicole comprised the entire team of two. They had no logistical support on the inconceivable trek and no major sponsor, hence Serge and Nicole received limited media coverage..  Today, Serge is a mountain guide in the Alps.  Nicole continues to demonstrate her compassion, as she works in a long-term care hospital, in part because of her participation in the world tour and its emphasis on caring for others .