Friendships That Transcend Business Make Me the Luckiest Guy in the World

By Steve Richter


I Might Have the Best Friends Ever.

Last weekend we held our ELITE Pro Shop VIP party for the third year in a row.  I invited out our clients to participate in a weekend full of events and have a fun time at the end of the traditional bowling season.

We also involve a charity that is the benefactor of funds we raise from raffles, auctions, and the like.

This year we chose the 12 Weeks of Christmas Project run by the Sheboygan Elks Lodge in cooperation with the Sheboygan County Department of Health and Human Services.  To read about the work they do you can see the Sheboygan Press article here and the short description I wrote here.

What made this year so different than the last two years is the addition of a team draft tournament in the morning on Saturday that you can read about here, and a good old fashioned Sheboygan brat fry open to the public.

While my marketing plan at times I’m sure felt a little overbearing, the objective was simple; get more people aware of the events and prizes available to get more people talking about it and drawing the public in, not just the bowlers.

My plan worked!!  While not the gargantuan brat fry party I had hoped for, the bar area was constantly busy from Noon until 9p.

And I need to give a special thanks to the Sheboygan Elks Lodge members and the staff at the Department of Health and Human Services for coming out and working the event, donating raffles, hanging out participating in raffles while not working, buying food, and telling friends to join in the fun where 100% of the proceeds went right back to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Project.

A special thank you MUST go out to everyone that either collected prizes or was a donator of prizes for our event.  Without those fabulous items for raffle or auction we never would have raised the kind of money we did to help strengthen our community.  In no particular order we wish to acknowledge:

Bill Supper – 900 Global, Whitney Brockway – Andretti Motorsports, Ben Cleveland – Johnsonville, Blue Harbor Resort, Stevie B’s Landscape, Carrie Hickmann, Chris Manthei – Glacier Canyon Rentals, Chris Schlemer – Roto Grip, David Renshaw – The BBQ Place, Gil Kuchta, Hank Boomershine – Storm Products, Jeff Richgels –, Kohler Company, Tim Firgens, Tyson Gutschow – Larry’s Distributing, Leanne Hulsenberg – Storm Products, Matt Martin – Storm Products, Tim Mack – Storm Products, Mark Picucci, Odyssey Fun Center, Jenni Stein – Pampered Chef, Eric Otte, Sandy Cashman, Scott Huenink, Angler’s Avenue, Todd Schaetzer – Lakeshore Lanes, Green Bay Packers, James Owen – 3 Sheeps Brewing, Joan Schanke – Mary Kay, Russ & Terri Voege, John & Trudie Hechel- Round Barn Wood Crafts, Beth Blanck, Blanck’s Supper Club, Brad Dahmer – D & H Rentals, Green Bay Gamblers Hockey, Jodi Schoerner – Master’s Gallery, Nicole Majerlie – Majerlie’s Black River Grill, JoAnne Cieslak – Turbo Grips, Megan Bernhardt – Turbo Grips, Ryan Cunniff – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Down Under Music Bar, Weill Center, Aaron Cleveland, EAA, Legend Larry’s, Culligan Water, Knockin’ Heads Salon, Piggly Wiggly, Sheboygan A’s Baseball.

I also want to acknowledge those who gave cash donations out of their heart because they believed in the cause we were pushing to help – many of whom weren’t able to make the event.  Suzanne Ronde, David Renshaw, Mark Picucci, Shawn Mitchell, Jeff Segerstrom, Chris Kaiser, Wes & Rae Ann Schmitz, Rudy DelValle, Rockline and Bardon Investments.

In addition I had friends that drove from many, many miles away who gave up time with their families just to be part of the event either to help with the operation of it or to be part of the experience my clients got bowling with legends.

Matt Crimmins – THANK YOU for the tireless work you put into being my muscle that day and getting things set up as well as run down when it was needed.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  In addition, your efforts behind the scenes helped make this a very profitable part of the fundraiser events of the entire weekend.

Anita Von der Putten and Tom Mulvaney – I can’t say enough about the time and work you put in to make sure the brat fry was fully staffed, ready and prepared to serve the guest to the center that day.  Admittedly I was nervous about this aspect of all the things we had going on, but you guys came through big-time and proved me wrong.  Thank you for your coordination that I could have never done on my own….I owe you both a debt of gratitude.

Peggy, Amelia, Anita, Maria & Dawn – My Energizer Bunnies!!  There is no way we would have raised as much money as we did without your creative work and bubbling personalities running the bucket raffles.  The numbers you guys came back with after each round was nothing short of astounding.

Terri Howery – You will never know how big of a role you played in how the day unfolded.  By coordinating the start of the 12 Weeks giving process we were allowed to display the gifts at the Elks Lodge to continue the giving spirit already which is going to make the 2015 Project the biggest yet. Thank you for your contributions that weekend.

To my friend that wishes to remain ananymous on their gift – You had a GREAT idea to begin the giving process for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Project kickoff.  We literally collected an entire 8 foot table stacked with food, paper products and necessities.  While I know you both could not be there, we thought about you all day and the tremendous gift you were providing to the cause.  You know who you are, I know who you are, and God knows who you are.

Jeff Richgels, Gail Myers, Tom Howery and Marc McDowell – My brothers from other mothers.  I appreciate the time you took to come up and participate in the event cutting short time with your families.  Having you guys be part of the event allows my clients to hang out with celebrities in the bowling world they might not otherwise get a chance to do.  Your presence makes for a better experience and I want to thank you for your willingness to help out a brother last weekend.

Pat Fitgerald – The person who drove the furthest to drive to support the event.  There at 6a Saturday – didn’t leave until after 1a.  Thank you for being present to help in any way possible.  I felt like we underutilized you for how many hours you were there, but feel grateful that you were there when we needed someone to take care of something – no matter how awful the job was.

Bill & Barbara Chrisman – Barbara, you were the original inspiration for us looking into different charities locally when I toured the YCC during construction and sat in on the ribbon cutting in October.  Something in your speech resonated with me that we needed to find ways to help more people in the community than we were previously.  Your contribution from the Chrisman Foundation kick started our corporate sponsorship program last year and your donation this year got us out of the blocks running early.  While technically you are my employer, I see you as family.  I love you guys!!!

Jim Becker – Although our relationship started as a result of your work with Storm, I feel a real friendship that has developed outside of that relationship.  You are a very smart man and I admire what you, Sandy and Joe have done to grow EPIC Creative.  Your sponsorship in our event makes a huge difference to people you will never meet, never know and will likely never be EPIC clients.  It takes a special man to give to others who need it more than him, especially when he will receive no benefit.

Chris Sand and Jeff Carter – I really am not sure how to say thank you enough times, or in as many ways, to show my appreciation for the tireless work you did from 9a Friday through midnight Saturday night.  You both are great ambassadors for the game and Turbo / Storm / Roto Grip should be overjoyed to have you both representing their brands.  The value you add to bowling in this area is immeasurable and I’m honored to call you my friends.

Jenni Stein – My Rock!  My Love!  Sadly, I can hardly remember one thing you did on Saturday, and yet I know you did it all.  While I’m running the bowling tournament and answering questions on the floor, you quietly went about organizing everything behind the scenes and likely got zero credit for it. There is no possible way we could have pulled off an amazing fundraiser without your planning, insight, contributions and problem solving ability.  You are truly one of a kind and I would be lost without you.  I know after a very long day you were hurting and yet you plowed through up to the point of exhaustion.  It shows the love and dedication you have to me, to my business and to my friends.  You are a gift from God.

While the event ended almost a week ago, contributions are still coming in from people looking to help others in our community.  I’m sure when everything is done and the money is all counted we’re going to surpass the stretch goal I set back in December.  That money along with the food items donated will help the Elks Lodge serve 200 families this year at Christmas time who need our help the most…..some of who we will never know.

If you wish to contribute to the donation, please contact us at