Paying tribute to Margaret “Peg” Ziegler
Neighbors in West Bend are paying tribute to Peg Ziegler as a “matriarch of the Ziegler family,” someone who was direct and leaving a legacy in the community.
Ziegler died at her home on Wednesday, January 15, 2020; she was 94.
Washington County Circuit Judge Andrew Gonring was taken aback when informed of the news. “Peg did so much for the community; both she and Bernie,” said Gonring. “All you have to do is take a look at the Kettle Moraine YMCA and see many improvements she funded, all in the name of kids and all in the name of making that facility available to members of this community in a way it wasn’t before.
“She was a tremendous matriarch of the Ziegler family. West Benders will be eternally grateful for what she’s done,” he said.
Questioned how he would identify Peg Ziegler, Gonring said “she was about as West Bend as they come.”
“She had down-home roots; she never put on airs or pretended to be someone she wasn’t. She truly was a great West Bender in all aspects,” he said.
Margaret “Peg” Ziegler, nee Gumm, attended West Bend High School. She graduated 1943 and her name is listed first as one of the editors of the high school yearbook.
“Peg was a sharp and classy lady that I had the utmost respect for,” said former West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow. “On several occasions I would get a call or email from her letting me know, very directly, her opinion. Usually she was in Arizona and still paying close attention to her home. She had a deep love for West Bend and its people.”
During her senior year in high school Margaret Gumm was involved in everything from band to choir, Latin Club, variety show, Christmas Play, Clipper Staff and Bend Editor and she was even elected Prom Queen.
“She was always a good friend,” said Gunter Woog. “We went at it tooth and nail but we were good friends.”
Woog said “she was always there when we needed her.”
He praised Ziegler for her donations to the community including Enchantment in the Park.
“If we needed a donation to Jam for Kids or anything the Zieglers always helped out,” he said.
Woog laughed at some memories of his friend Peg, saying a good word to describe her was “cantankerous.”
“One time she told me to move back to Germany if I didn’t like it,” Woog said. “She held her ground but had a big heart. Even when we were fighting, we really liked each other. It’s the kind of relationship people don’t have today.”
Betty Nelson, another legacy of West Bend, was good friends with Peg Ziegler. “Bernie and Peg introduced Cliff and me,” she said about her future husband. “We went to the auto races at State Fair Park. That was back in 1948 and we were married in ’49.”
Nelson, 96, described Peg and Bernie as “close friends for years.”
“She was such a generous woman. She was interested in West Bend; everything about West Bend or everything that pertained to West Bend and she was very active in raising money for the Y and all manner of things,” said Nelson. “We were fast friends because the Ziegler’s were a lot of fun. Peggy had a good sense of humor and I think that took her through a lot of tough times.”
Barb Justman, owner of BJ and Company, spent time with Ziegler weekly; visiting her home every Thursday to “do her hair.”
“She was spirited,” said Justman. “When I’d be there, she would talk about things like the art museum and the trees or bushes planted by the museum. Someone would have taken her for a ride and she just always wanted to know what was going on in West Bend,” said Justman. “The museum and the historic theatre were always hot topics of conversation for her. She really wanted to be kept up on local news.”
Former Washington County Board Chairman Ken Miller said he had the pleasure of working with Peg on several occasions. “She always knew what she wanted but could compromise if necessary. She was feisty but kind. I admired her for just being “her”. She was unselfish and always willing to “pitch “in. She is one of the great philanthropists that makes Washington County a great place. Her “mark” is all over the area not just Washington County and West Bend. She will be missed. What a great Lady.”
Ric Leitheiser of West Bend said Peg Ziegler made a significant impact in the community. “Peg carried on the Ziegler legacy and made her own in more ways than I’m sure people realize. What I remember most is her interest in kids. She always had a soft spot for kids and children will benefit from her generosity for generations. She will be missed,” said Leitheiser.
Nancy and Jerry Mehring were good friends of Peg Ziegler. Jerry Mehring would drive her to medical appointments. “She asked for Jerry specifically as a driver with Interfaith,” said Nancy. “She was a proud lady and I felt bad because was such a wonderful person.”
Mehring remembered working for Peg’s husband Bernie years ago at the West Bend Company. “Bernie and Allan Kieckhafer and Harry Haugen were all in wholesale and premium. Peg was always so kind and sweet and it’s no wonder Bernie could do as much as he did because they worked together as such a good team,” said Nancy Mehring.
One-year Bernie Ziegler gave Nancy Mehring a pale green cashmere sweater for Christmas. “It was so special and it was a gift and I treasured that so much and I always told Peggy how much that meant. West Bend is missing a great lady; West Bend was lucky to have the Zieglers and their generosity.”
Peggy is survived by 3 children: Bernard Ziegler, Jayne (Jim) Wayne and J.J. (Annette) Ziegler; 10 grandchildren: Brooke (Nicholas) Novaczyk, Sara (Joe) Humann, Laura (Grant) Sommer, Jim (Aurelia) Wayne, Nick (Priscilla) Wayne, Carri Wayne, Lucy Wayne, Keller Ziegler, Charlie Ziegler and Drew Ziegler; 13 great-grandchildren; 1 sister Dorothy Barnes; other relatives and friends.
In addition to her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by 1 daughter Marna Ziegler, 1 daughter-in-law Liz Ziegler and 1 brother Robert Gumm.
Visitation will be on Thursday, January 23 from 10:30 a.m. until 1:15 p.m. at the Schmidt Funeral Home in West Bend. Funeral services will follow at 1:30 p.m. with private interment.
Skinny Vic’s location in West Bend revealed
The location for the new Skinny Vic’s Diner & Coffee Stop is being revealed.
“It looks like everyone nailed it,” said owner Vicki Lehnerz.
The initial story about the new restaurant was posted as a tease on Saturday morning. Folks in the community offered an array of guesses.
Lehnerz said her new eatery is going into the former Golf Etc. storefront, 804 W. Paradise Drive; in between Petco and Anytime Fitness in the strip-mall location by Home Depot.
“This is the place to be,” she said.
It was two years ago, June 2018, when Lehnerz closed her diner in Slinger. She gravitated to West Bend, looking for a larger space.
“I’ll have 1,300 more square feet in this location and my Coffee Stop, with the grab-and-go items, will be larger,” she said. “I’ll be selling my bread, soups, salads; it’ll be like a Starbucks or Panera counter inside the restaurant.”
Lehnerz plans to be open for breakfast and lunch and then dinner on Friday night.
The build out for the new Diner & Coffee Stop is underway. Lehnerz is expecting a soft open with special invites around April and then officially launching by May.
“I have an incredible passion for what I do and my food is amazing and people want me back and that’s what keeps me going,” she said.
Sharpshooters prepping to trim the deer population at two parks in West Bend
Sharpshooters will be conducting a managed hunt in the coming weeks at Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Ridge Run Park in West Bend in an effort to better manage the growing population of deer in the City.
This is the third such hunt since a Deer Management Committee was formed in 2017.
The City of West Bend allowed a managed hunt for two years. The first effort in 2018 was coordinated in house and included three bow hunters who had to pass a marksmanship test to qualify to take part. Hunters spent five days in the park and shot a total of three deer.
The Deer Management group and West Bend Common Council followed up with a more aggressive plan in 2019 and hired sharpshooters in an effort to trim the herd by 60 at Ridge Run Park and Lac Lawrann Conservancy.
Sharpshooters totaled 56 deer in 2019 and are looking to trim the herd by an equal amount or better this year.
District 1 alderman John Butschlick is part of the Deer Management Committee.
“The sharpshooters will conduct the managed hunt in January and February,” he said.
Some neighbors have already voiced their concern saying they felt the number of deer in the City has dramatically declined. Butschlick said that’s not the information they’ve received.
“They did a drone search of the parks and I was shocked at the number of deer they found at Lac Lawrann,” he said. “Three or four weeks ago hunters spotted 150 deer.”
This past year Bicentennial Park and its deer population was also discussed. Butschlick said the deer are extremely heavy on 18th Avenue especially near Miller Street and Hilltop Drive. “The deer trails in that area are just like runways,” he said.
The City applied for a $5,000 Urban Wildlife Damage Abatement and Control grant to help offset the expense which totaled a little more than $9,000.
Butschlick said the paperwork has already been filed and with advisement from the DNR he hopes to secure the grant to cover the cost of the 2020 managed hunt.
The city is targeting a reduction in deer numbers to reduce deer damage to habitat, property and car/deer collisions.
Former Mayor Kraig Sadownikow praises new S&P long-term bond rating for City of West Bend
Former West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said the news release from the City of West Bend, today January 13, 2020, is great news for the community.
Sadownikow said the effort took a lot of hard work and commitment.
The City of West Bend announced Standard & Poor (S&P) Global Ratings has assigned its ‘AA’ long-term rating to the City of West Bend series 2020A taxable general obligation (GO) community development bonds.
The AA rating declares the City to be “at a very strong capacity to meet financial commitments due to its leadership, organizational policies, and financial stability. It will position the City to receive the best possible interest rates on future borrowings.”
“The City of West Bend has made a tremendous commitment to its short- and long-term financial wellness,” said City Administrator Jay Shambeau. “This improved rating reflects the hard work and dedication of City Council members, the Finance Department staff, and our department head team.”
Sadownikow said the bond rating issue goes back to 2011 when he was elected and met with a Washington County Supervisor.
“That supervisor said the city is on a collision course with a financial tsunami,” said Sadownikow. “It took about a year and a half to figure out what he was talking about …. but he was exactly right.”
Sadownikow praised the West Bend Common Council for it’s aggressiveness and dedication to “reduce debt and increase reserves.”
“Moody’s was the City’s bonding agency for more than 20 years and during our annual conference calls their reps would lay out what the City had to do to increase its bond rating,” he said. “We did that but I didn’t feel the City was getting the respect it deserved.”
In 2019, Sadownikow threw out the challenge for the City to change rating agencies and that’s where S&P comes in.
“S&P looked at the information and said you guys are a lot stronger than Moody’s was giving you credit for and that’s where we are today,” he said.
Details in the latest S&P report upgraded the City’s bond rating, last conducted by Moody in 2019, from Aa3 to AA. In summary, the rating reflects S&P’s assessment of the City’s:
Strong economy with access to a broad and diverse metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The city has a projected per capita effective buying income of 98.3% of the national level and per capita market value of $93,945. Overall, the city’s market value grew by 6.9% over the past year to $3.0 billion in 2020. The county unemployment rate was 2.5% in 2018.
Strong management with good financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment (FMA) methodology. West Bend conducts line-by-line budgeting, relying on historical information to determine trends.
Very strong budgetary flexibility with an available undesignated fund balance in fiscal 2018 of 28.3% of operating expenditures.
Very strong liquidity with total government available cash at 78.8% of total governmental fund expenditures and 3.3x governmental debt service, and access to external liquidity we consider strong.
Adequate debt and contingent liability profile, with debt service carrying charges at 23.9% of expenditures and net direct debt that is 128.7% of total governmental fund revenue, as well as low overall net debt at less than 3% of market value and rapid amortization, with 89.3% of debt scheduled to be retired in 10 years.
Strong institutional framework score.
“What this does is put the City in a position where raising taxes at random and increasing debt at random puts the City right back where it was,” he said. “What it takes is some time, energy, and question asking to understand what made us strong, because we know what made us weak.”
Questioned whether the AA rating is now good enough so all the roads can be fixed in West Bend, Sadownikow said…
“Can we finally fix the roads? If that means someone’s going to say let’s borrow $20 million, I would say no,” he said. “The amount of money the City is putting into roads is potentially over the next three years higher than it’s ever been. It allows the City to invest more into roads but it has to be done in an intelligent manner or we end up right back where we were.
“The report recognizes the reduction in debt; that debt is more manageable and more sustainable than it was in the past. It also recognizes that the City’s reserves are at a really comfortable level and that’s what gives bonding agencies comfort is knowing a community is financially strong,” said Sadownikow.
“If taking on a bunch of debt willy nilly and to raise taxes by taking on a bunch of willy-nilly debt, I would say that’s not a good solution and it would put the City right back onto a path of a financial tsunami. I’m super proud the common council took a position seven years ago to put some mechanisms in place to put the City in the position it’s at right now.”
“The Finance Department is very pleased with the upgraded bond rating,” said Finance Administrator Carrie Winklbauer. “The City of West Bend is continuing to move in a positive financial direction.”
WBHS club teams complain about budget cuts but they really overspent allotted amount
During the Jan. 6, 2020 meeting of the West Bend School Board, students packed the board room. High school students and parents spoke about funds being cut for clubs like forensics and debate and the school music program was even mentioned.
When students in attendance were asked where the information about funding cuts came from, none could answer.
At the meeting students and parents spoke about the “importance of band, the cost of transportation to events and registration not being covered.”
“I don’t know why the arts don’t get funded like sports teams do. We have football fields, a brand-new tennis court that got resurfaced… The kids in the arts… are a team as well. They are a club as well. They need to be recognized. They need to be funded.”
“I want to know how the budget is put together and how can that budget be changed in the middle of the school year.”
Emily Colton – “I’m here to address the recent defunding of the East forensics program… Who can reverse this decision.”
After the public speaking portion of the meeting Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said, “I don’t believe the board and or the district cut any funding for co-curricular programs.”
Following the meeting Kirkegaard asked for a hold on any story until he could look into it further.
Superintendent Kirkegaard spoke this week about what they found.
Kirkegaard – “There were no cuts at all to any of the forensics or music budget. There was no cut at all to the budget but last year between East and West they overspent by about $5,000 between the two. The cut was actually based on not actually having the ability to spend as much this year as they did last year and that had nothing to do with the approved budget.”
Kirkegaard – “I just visited with both principals and we are going to suggest or tell the advisers that we’re going to spend up to where we were last year and then this spring when we look at those funds we’ll then make the decision whether we will live within the budget or amend the budget to better reflect the expenses we have.”
Kirkegaard – “If they had overspent in the past and told they couldn’t overspend in the future then I can see where supervisors would think they don’t have as much to spend this year as they did last year but we truly have adjusted it making sure we’re not going to hold them specifically to that amount but we’re going to try to live within what we spent last year which was a little bit over what was budgeted for last year and now we need to make sure we budget appropriately or spend in accordance with the budget.”
District Finance Director Andy Sarnow- “Debate is a combined team but there’s a forensics team for West Bend East and another for West. I’ve only heard about discussion with regard to forensics. I’ve heard of no further discussions for band; I don’t know where that came from. There have been discussions with the forensics coach. I’ll have to get back to you on the budget numbers. We are coming up with a document to share with the board.”
Sarnow – “In 2018-2019 and East and West forensics is separate and each has a budget of $6,700. The total for forensics is $13,400. Last year they overspent by about $4,950 within forensics. So just under $5,000. That was both teams together. Total they spent that year $18,500 and overspent just under $5,000.”
Sarnow – “Going over budget by 25% – 30% is significant. We don’t want to make a big deal about it because they do some wonderful stuff. Don Kirkegaard did reference they did spend $9,500 last year for transportation and that was a little more than previous years. We put a lot of things together and put it into one line item in our chart of accounts and I can’t say that account went over budget but they spent a little bit more so that was another couple thousand dollars that was more than anticipated.”
Sarnow – “The prior year they were within about $1,500; not a big concern but it does go back to the original message Mr. Graff shared is ‘boy, we just have to do a little bit better job living within our budget.’ There were no budgets that were abused, nothing like that it was just more of an effort to be proactive because we have a defined revenue limit. We can’t just ask taxpayers for more money and get it we’re just trying to be a little more sensitive to that.”
Sarnow – “By site the principals oversee their school allocations. My department, I work with them as well to take a look at things and are monitoring that regularly.”
WCI questioned if now the spending is being monitored or was it before?
Sarnow – “We have been, but in going back they had more activities that had been anticipated. They went a lot longer than I believe; they had activities from the end of September 2018 to the end of May 2019. So, I think there were more activities; I don’t know if there were more students participating but I do know they went to more events.”
WCI – Is it busing only or hotel stays or admission costs?
Sarnow – “It’s busing but travel; events further away where students are spending the night. Hotels, meals, and students are also contributing. Above the district allocation each school is also fundraising approximately $10,000 a year and spending about that so that’s additional money that’s spent on travel and coaches and going to these events.”
WCI – parents and students did speak for over 45 minutes at the board meeting about spending being cut.
Sarnow – “That’s not accurate.”
WCI – How did that get out there?
Sarnow – “I don’t know. There were discussions that dated to August but you should call WB East principal John Graf. (Calls have been placed to Graff with no response.)
WCI – The board then asked for more money to cover expenses. Where is that money coming from?
Sarnow – “Again, there were no budget reductions. We’re trying to get them to live within their budget. If we do need to get them a little additional money that’s equal to what they spent last year there is a little discretionary money the principals have and they could shift around and cover any overages. And that’s exactly what happened last year. At year end they had a little money left over so they were able to absorb the deficit within their budget.”
WCI – Should someone else get involved in overseeing how the money is spent so students don’t get rattled like this again?
Sarnow – “Myself, I don’t see any concerns or have any issues with the way we’ve been monitoring it. Are we going to pay a bit more closer attention, sure. But I don’t have any concerns from a financial perspective.”
WCI – How is the money being spent.
Sarnow – “I believe, based on coding and how we describe the expenditures we incur, it may indeed have included the one combined East and West debate team but primarily speaking this is mostly forensics.”
Sarnow did not know how or why band funding was brought into the discussion.
Calls have been placed to school board members for their response.
Hope Demler promoted to Deputy Sheriff Lt. for Washington Co. Sheriff Martin Schulteis
A nice tribute to Hope Demler as she was promoted to Deputy Sheriff Lieutenant for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Demler has been with the Sheriff’s Department for nearly 19 years. She started in February 2001 and was promoted to detective in April 2006.
During a Public Safety Committee meeting on Wednesday morning, January 15, Sheriff Martin Schulteis recognized Demler for her service as a Patrol Deputy, DARE Instructor, Detective, Dive Team Member, CVSA Operator and Evidence Custodian.
“During that time, she received multiple acknowledgements, commendations and letters from private citizens and fellow professionals regarding her outstanding performance serving the citizens of Washington County.”
Demler was also recognized for her service as a U.S. Navy veteran and for her “honor, integrity and respect.” Sheriff Schulteis then promoted Demler to Deputy Sheriff Lieutenant effective January 16, 2020.
Slinger/Hartford snowboard team brings home the hardware By Delaney Braun
The Slinger Snowboard team had two fantastic races over the weekend at Alpine Valley Ski Resort.
A notable highlight featured Slinger girls’ varsity earning the top three spots on the podium. Gold went to the SHS junior Marisa Reyes, silver to Kallie Weyer a freshman, and bronze was awarded to freshman Ava Stortz.
Slinger is also proud of Pun Worakulpisut, a foreign exchange student from Thailand. He raced for his first time ever. Great work Pun.
All of the Slinger medalists included (back row) Jack Bullis, Luke Schmitt, Ethan Smith, Brady Jackson, Marisa Reyes, (middle row) Kallie Weyer, Ava Stortz, Emma Smith, McKinley DeLong, (front row) Kennedy Weidmeyer, and Jax Weidmeyer.
Front row – Kennedy Wiedmeyer Jax Wiedmeyer. Second row – Kallie Weyer, Ava Stortz, Emma Smith, McKinley DeLong. Third row- Luke Schmitt, Ethan Smith, Brady Jackson, Marisa Reyes. Back row – Jack Bullis. Medalists not pictured Joe Hefter and Henry Wolf.
The course was extremely slick and rutted, which made it even more difficult for racers. The conditions were questionable going into the weekend but ended up with no severe storm.
Falls were commonplace by many racers on other teams, but with looking at the results the 2020 Slinger Snowboard Race Team had some of the strongest and most talented snowboarders in the Midwest.
West Bend Philanthropist to be named Assembly ‘Hometown Hero’ | By Rep. Jim Steineke
The Wisconsin State Assembly will recognize Pete Rettler of West Bend as a “Hometown Hero” at the upcoming Assembly session on January 21.
Rettler, who was nominated by his State Representative, Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger), has been devoutly involved in the United Way Washington County, raising funds for projects and initiatives throughout the community.
In 2019, Rettler coordinated the largest dollar amount and overall percentage increase in Washington County United Way fundraising history.
“Pete has exemplified what it means to give back to one’s community through his work with the Washington County United Way,” said Assembly Majority Leader Steineke (R-Kaukauna), who selected Rettler for the award. “We’re honored to recognize his giving spirit and dedication to Washington County.”
Rettler’s impressive fundraising for the area has not gone unnoticed by others in the community. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce’s Betty Pearson Community Leadership Award.
The Wisconsin State Assembly sees giving back to the community as one of the most valuable characteristics one can have.
The Assembly Hometown Heroes program seeks to identify and recognize individuals from around the state who give of themselves to make a difference in our communities and in the lives of those around them.
Hometown Hero Award winners are invited and introduced as a special guest at an Assembly floor session and given the opportunity to speak.
Hartford Union HS’s Mary Scherr named Gymnastics Coach of the Year
Hartford Union High School (HUHS) is proud to announce Mary Scherr, Varsity Girls Gymnastics Team Head Coach, named 2018-2019 Central Section Girls Gymnastics Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
In September of 2019, Mary Scherr was named Gymnastics Coach of the Year for Wisconsin by the NFHS.
“I was very surprised and feel honored to be receiving this award. I want to thank my daughter Bobbi and son Michael for all the time and effort they put into coaching with me. I would not be receiving this award without their help,” said Mary Scherr.
Mary was specifically nominated by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association as the most deserving recipient for this honor among coaches of the sport in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Honorees were selected based upon their performance in the 2018-2019 school year, lifetime community involvement, school involvement, and philosophy of coaching.
“We’re excited for Mary to be recognized at the National level. Our student-athletes are lucky to be working with such a high-caliber coach,” said Scott Helms, HUHS Athletics & Activities Director.
18th annual Hunt for a Cure for MS is February 1
Join the Bell family at the 18th annual Hunt for a Cure for MS at Circle B in Cedarburg is Saturday, February 1.
On a history note: The hunt started in a garage in Saukville and to date it has become one of the most popular fundraisers for multiple sclerosis in Wisconsin. The humble family of Don, 88, and Eileen Bell, 87, are the force behind the effort.
The Bell Family Rabbit Hunt began in 2002.
“It started because of our two children that left this earth early,” said Don. “Marge and Rich were both devastated by multiple sclerosis and at that time there were no drugs for it. Now at least there is stuff that can control it and slow it and people are at least a little more comfortable rather than being so debilitated and bedridden.”
The Bell family includes seven children: Margie, Janet, Richard, Gordon, twins Ann and Alan and Brian.
“Margie was our oldest and she came down with MS first when she was a student at UW-Oshkosh,” said Eileen. “Her first symptoms were when she was 20 years old.”
Marge left college, married her boyfriend and after she had her first son, she developed more symptoms. In 1979 she was diagnosed with MS, a disease of the central nervous system.
“The body starts to attack itself and the nerves to the muscles start to sort of short circuit,” said Eileen. Doctors told the Bell family the disease was not hereditary.
Rich, the third oldest son, started developing symptoms when he was 27 years old. “Rich was very athletic and he would fall and he blamed it on the concrete sidewalk and it was really toe drop,” said Don. “He went to Madison for an MRI and they found lesions around the brain.”
The Bell children had MS at the same time. Rich returned home in 1991 and died in 1999. Margie passed away in 2003.
Don said the idea of holding a fundraiser was hatched following a rabbit hunt in Saukville.
“My nephew called and told me to come to Saukville and go rabbit hunting,” said Don. “My brother Jerry went along and we were sitting in the garage drinking beer and talking smart and the word fundraiser came up. I suggested we do it for MS and boom it got started.”
The first family hunt was a neighborhood thing. “We were in a garage for two years and we made $10,000 in one year,” said Don. “I’m not kidding you; they auctioned off empty paper boxes to meet the goal. They knew they were empty but they bid on them and we raised money for MS.”
After outgrowing the garage and shed the Bell family moved the event to the Railroad Station in Saukville. For 15 years the fundraiser was held there until it moved again in 2018 to Circle B Recreation in Cedarburg.
“We had 300 initially turn out and now we’re up to 500,” said Don Bell. “It’s almost $400,000 that we made for the Wisconsin Chapter of the MS Society.”
Families and friends from Madison, Green Bay and Eau Claire make up a majority of those in attendance along with people who have experienced MS.
Proceeds from the Rabbit Hunt Fundraiser are divided between research ($50,000 annually), helping people with mobility issues and student scholarships. “If families affected by MS can’t afford education for their children, we help provide scholarships for them,” said Eileen.
“This year we’re putting $3,000 into one scholarship,” said Don.
The day of the hunt
The day begins with three-person teams hunting anywhere in southeastern Wisconsin where hunting is permitted before arriving Circle B Recreation from 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Fifty teams took part in the 2015 event, which raised $50,000 that was donated to MS. The funds came from the $225 team registration fees for the hunt and from general donations, although a large percentage was donated by proceeds from auction items and sales of raffle tickets.
Team names are part of the fun including: Briar Patch Bandits, The Haasenpfeffers (with the Haas family) and Hare Today Stew Tomorrow.
“In 2018 we had 235 rabbits,” said Don. “Nothing goes to waste and everyone gets a prize because we have so many prizes donated.”
Don brings out several 5×7 photos which show hundreds of rabbits strung on a line.
Most teams take their rabbits with them and those that are left are processed free of charge by a man in Grafton who cleans them and sponsors a meal for hunter education classes. “He also makes sausage and that goes to the Lasata Nursing Home in Ozaukee County,” Don said.
Hunters, along with family and friends, then spend the afternoon enjoying food, beverages, games, music, raffles and auctions. “People donate items and the gun raffle is really big,” said Don.
“Our granddaughters put on bunny ears and they walk around the room selling raffle tickets,” said Eileen.
One year Don won a boat cover, which was a little ironic since he owns Cedar Lake Sales and Service in West Bend.
“This little boy and his dad came by me and said, ‘That cover would fit our boat and how much do you want for it?’” said Don. “I gave that to him along with an anchor. It just made his day.”
The Bell family believes it is making an impact on research and so does the MS Society. “We just received a plaque for the biggest and most unique fundraiser in the state,” said Eileen. “We are leaving a legacy and we have the deepest appreciation for the volunteers and the generosity and support to make an impact on the lives of many individuals affected by MS.”
About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to cognitive challenges, blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide, including more than 11,000 children, women and men in Wisconsin – believed to be one of the higher prevalence rates in the nation.