Surpasses $3 million since 1982
The annual Auction of Champions gala once again broke its previous record to benefit the National Farm Medicine Center. It was a night of glitz, glamor and extreme generosity.
About 325 people attended the event at RiverEdge Golf Course in Marshfield that raised $281,000 to support farm safety programs and research at the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC). Last year's Auction of Champions raised a then-record $247,000.
Pictured above: Grand Finale finalists (from left) Tammy Schreiner, Sharon Bredl and Lee Spindler.
Since the first Auction in 1982, the annual gala has raised just over $3 million for NFMC, a program of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute.
"It is always wonderful to see the results of the merchants, philanthropists, and medical communities of Central Wisconsin coming together to raise money for the health and safety of our agricultural community," said the event chair, Erik Stratman, M.D. He considers this the premiere philanthropic event for our area.
Ken Heiman greeted guests as Mr. Monopoly.
"It's the fundraising event I attend each year where I see the most direct impact on the farm communities that the funds are designed to help," he added. "This year, we could see the life-saving results right here in Central Wisconsin through the Auction's funding of tractor roll-over protection systems."
That was also a key factor in Dr. Clayton Green's decision to make a lead gift for this initiative.
"I take care of a lot of these people. Without a rollover bar and seatbelt, a tractor rollover is nearly 100% fatal. If a tractor with proper safety features rolls over, it's minor injuries to the farmer," Dr. Green noted. "How much is a human life worth? This is a grassroots effort where a unit cost corresponds to one retrofitted tractor and one human life. I'd like to see my money help keep farmers safe."
Of the funds raised that evening, $32,500 will directly support the NFMC's tractor rollover protective structure (ROPS) rebate program. With donations from last year's Auction, about 40 rollover protective structures (ROPS) have either been installed or are in the process of being installed on Wisconsin tractors. Additionally, more than 200 applications for ROPS rebates have been received.
Brooke Trierweiler of the Clinic’s Development Department holds a purebred chocolate lab puppy that was auctioned off.
"We want to get the ROPS on the tractors as soon as possible so we're not putting ourselves or our family members in danger when we operate the tractors," said Bill Herr, a Greenwood farmer who lost a neighbor last year in a rollover.
Although the cause is quite serious, the Auction remains a festive evening. Even Mr. Monopoly showed up. This year's theme - "Monopoly: Auction of Champions Edition" - gave a new twist on the classic board game. Ken Heiman of Nasonville Dairy dressed as Mr. Monopoly and greeted guests as they arrived
The program started on an immediate high note when 11-year-old young farmer, Emmett Meissner, gave his rendition of the late Paul Harvey's 1978 "So God Made a Farmer" speech.
To end the evening, winners of eight designated live auction items were invited on stage for a special dice game and a chance to win the grand finale prize. The winners, Todd and Tammy Schreiner, had the choice of an all-terrain vehicle, personal watercraft or a zero turn lawn mower. They picked the lawn mower.
"The generosity of the auction donors puts safety knowledge into practice through Farm Center programs such as the ROPS rebate initiative and the Journal of Agromedicine," said Scott Heiberger, NFMC communications specialist. "The donors are making a difference and we truly appreciate their support."
What is the impact of market animal sales?
It all starts with the young members of local Future Farmers of America (FFA) groups and 4-H clubs who raise cattle, hogs and lambs over the course of the summer. These hard-working kids then sell these animals at the market animal sale at the Clark County Fair in Neillsville and the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield.
Community-minded individuals and businesses purchase these animals from the youngsters and the proceeds go to the kids, often to be saved for future college needs.
Many of these individuals and businesses donate animals they have just purchased to the National Farm Medicine Center. These animals are then processed and put into meat packages that are sold in the live auction at the Auction of Champions.
"The Auction of Champions, back in its roots, was tied to helping support the livestock auction at local fairs," recalled Brad Guse, vice president and agricultural banking officer at BMO Harris Bank , who serves on the Auction of Champions Committee. "Without those auctions, many of our rural youth would not be able to go to college or other post-secondary schooling. I know I would not have been able to."
Guse also credited the NFMC with bringing attention to identifying and developing solutions to address safety issues on farms.
"They've created easily implemented, positive solutions, while creating the awareness and advertising to get the word out on it," he said. "In the end, a lot of farm families are safer because of what the AOC generates to support the NFMC."
More than $40,000 is raised just by the meat packages in the live auction.