Generosity flows at ‘Karl’ fundraiser

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Karl Potach, and all the other pediatric cancer victims who die before reaching 6, would be proud.

The “butterfly boy” continues to inspire giving and touches the lives of more and more pediatric cancer patients each day.

It happened again Monday night at the Austin Country Club.

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The 11th annual Karl Potach Memorial Golf Tournament filled the links with golfers.

The evening banquet crowd filled the Austin Country Club dining hall.

Richard L. Knowlton, retired CEO and chairman of the board of Hormel Foods Corporation and current chairman of the Hormel Foundation, was there. All smiles, too, after Mayo Clinic announced earlier Monday a $5 million donation to the Hormel Institute renovation and expansion project.

The death of Fred Robinson was mourned by all; so well-known and respected an Austin businessman was he.

Robinson died Sunday of brain cancer.

A live auction netted $10,500 thanks to the auctioneering skills of Steve Moline and the generosity of bidders.

Throughout the live auction, an anonymous donor pledged $2,500 to the Karl Potach Foundation if it would be matched by the banquet audience.

Lance Pogones, Tim Duren and Kevin Arnold went to work and rounded up 10 $250 donors and the $2,500 donation became $5,000.

Ten minutes later, the same anonymous donor pledged another $2,500 if 10 more donors could be found.

Five minutes later, 10 people gave $250 each and the $2,500 grew to another $5,000.

Twenty minutes later in the midst of the live auction, a second anonymous donor called to say he would donate $2,500 if 10 more donors could be found a third time that evening.

No problem.

After another 10 minutes passed, it was announced the goal had been met and another $5,000 was raised for the Karl Potach Foundation.

The $15,000 was given to Dr. Zigang Dong, executive director of Hormel Institute, later in the evening.

Dr. Kurt and Brenda Potach made a $10,000 donation to the Institute in May and pledged proceeds from the 11th annual golf tournament fundraiser to help fund the hiring of a research assistant. The actual total donated by the couple in the name of their son’s foundation was $25,000.

Who wouldn’t be proud of all that generosity? No one at the golf fundraiser.


Karl Potach died just short of 5 years old after suffering from Wilms tumor.

He was only 2 years old in October 1994 when he was diagnosed with the rare cancer.

The little boy underwent surgeries to remove three tumors and also underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

His parents said their son had a “God-given character” that allowed him to “find good in bad” and “bring joy and comfort to those around him.”

Money raised in the first 10 Karl Potach Memorial Golf Tournaments is used to improve the quality of life of life for current and future pediatric cancer patients and also work for a cure.

The foundation has raised more than $200,000.

Of that amount, $115,000 has been donated to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund at the University of Minnesota for pediatric cancer research.

The foundation has also donated Bibles and books to area pediatric hospitals, built an aquarium on the pediatric floor at Austin Medical Center-Mayo Health System and used monies to help families face the finance strains cancer can bring.

A new program was introduced at St. Marys Hospital, Rochester, called “Karl’s Pack of Hope” to touch the lives of children dealing with cancer. Backpacks filled with paper, markers, crayons and other items are given to children undergoing cancer treatment.


Lance Pogones welcomed the large crowd to the banquet.

Conrad Ray, son of Gary and Pat Ray, returned to Austin for the tournament.

On Sunday, he led a free golf clinic that attracted 40 young golfers.

Ray is the men’s varsity golf coach at Stanford University and was named “Men’s Varsity Golf Coach of the Year” in 2007 when the Stanford team won the national championship.

The live auction began with a bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers from Dave Olson and Apollo Liquor and Johnson Floral, respectively, for an entire year.

It went for $350, but that was only the beginning.

A pair of Paul Boisjolie-crafted Adirondack chairs went for $450. Two more Boisjolie chairs went for $450.

A Lanesboro weekend caught Jim Felten’s eye for $400 — the same price Lance and Snow Pogones paid for a pair of tickets to an Eagles concert in the Twin Cities.

A Tolly’s Time Out Supper Club gourmet dinner prepared by chef Jim Herrick Jr. earned $700 and the race was on to see who could out-bid each other.

Timberwolves’ basketball tickets at center court donated by Kevin Arnold earned $550, a round of golf on the Stanford University home course with Conrad Ray earned $950, vacation packages brought $900 and $1,200, and a Memphis in May hog roast for 24 earned $2,000.

Hole flags autographed by Conrad Ray went for $100 each.

When it came time for the guest speakers, the bidding frenzy came to an end.

The ‘reason’

Dr. Carola Arndt of the Mayo Clinic was Karl’s doctor when he was diagnosed with the Wilms tumor cancer. “He’s the reason I do what I do today,” Arndt said.

Dong thanked the foundation for their generosity to help make the Austin cancer research center a “premier” facility.

Gail Dennison, the institute’s public relations coordinator, praised Dong’s research skills and associated director Dr. Ann Bode’s leadership and Knowlton’s vision for the facility’s growth.

Now nearing the completion of its second phase, the Hormel Institute’s expansion and renovation benefited from $1.5 million in donations raised from the greater Austin community, according to Dennison, who announced to the crowed the latest $5 million donation from Mayo Clinic.

Finally, it was Shanna Decker’s turn to speak.

The 18-year-old woman from Plainview is a cancer survivor.

She told the crowed, “It’s amazing what attitude and hope can bring.”

Kurt and Brenda Potach expressed their heart-felt appreciation to all and it was time for check presentations: $10,000 to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, which executive director John Hallberg said put the Potaches in the University of Minnesota’s President’s Club for their generosity.

Another $10,000 went to Arndt for the Mayo Clinic and $25,000 went to Dong and the Hormel Institute.

More words of thanks and appreciation were exchanged all around.

And, the butterfly symbol adopted by the little boy’s parents has metamorphisized into love on a golf course each mid-August in Austin.

“Do you believe the foundation is accomplishing its goals today?” Lance Pogones, family friend and driving force behind the fundraiser, was asked.

“More than ever,” he replied.