Another successful year

Published 10:51 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

Like any other family reunion, there was plenty of food.

So much, that people were returning for seconds and when it was over, dishes and desserts were wrapped to take home.

Grandchildren stole the spotlight from adults.

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When grandpa Larry Ricke attempted to speak to the crowd, his granddaughter showboated in front of the stage.

Other grandparents, such as Gary Ziegler, were content to carry a grandchild through the crowd for all to admire.

There was also music: in this case, Jeff Ramaker’s touching ode to his brother, Del, who passed away.

The jokes were plenty, too. After Jessie Meyer announced she will no longer be able to co-chair next year’s event. Her co-chairman, Ricke, asked reunion guests to turn over their chairs and find out who would be his partner at the 2010 reunion. The “lucky” person had a notice pasted to the bottom of their chair.

Of course, Meyer’s chair had that invitation, much to her chagrin.

They are still talking about the 2009 fundraising for cancer research in small towns everywhere in southern Minnesota.

At the 30th annual family reunion held last Sunday night at American Legion Post No. 105 in Lyle, people were still euphoric despite the dreadful reason they were there in the beginning.

The one thing that connected everyone, who attended the reunion, was cancer.

Unless there’s a cure, this reunion will go on forever.

“On behalf of the Lyle Area Cancer Auction committee, we thank you all for coming,” Ricke told a small crowd of attendees.

The event was billed as a “family reunion” for everyone involved in the Jan. 16 and 17 cancer research benefit auction, which raised $118,000 for The Hormel Institute, Mayo Clinic Cancer Unit and University of Minnesota Hospital Cancer Research Unit.

Ziegler, former co-chairperson of the LACA events with his wife, Cindy, said it is possible to put a price tag on the annual fundraising success.

According to Ziegler, LACA has raised $1.15 million its 30-year history.

In the latest decade, it has raised $965,000.

This was the sixth consecutive year in which LACA raised $100,000 or more.

The string began in 2004, when a record $127,000 was raised, according to Ziegler, or an incredible $55,000 more than the previous year.

The auction weekend events, including silent and live auctions, account for an estimated 55 percent of the total proceeds collected each year for the Fifth District Eagles Cancer Telethon.

In its eight-year history, the Harley Davidson raffle has earned $152,000.

Meanwhile, nine Lucille Johnson Memorial Pool Tournaments at Carpenter, Iowa, the weekend before the LACA fun, has earned $213,000.

“I really wasn’t surprised that we went over the $100,000 mark again,” said Ziegler. “The whole area just keeps giving.

“There are more people out there who have cancer and there are more survivors than ever before,” he said.

“The Hormel Institute expansion and renovation project brought a greater awareness to cancer research and the importance of the fundraising we do,” he said.

More staggering numbers come from Geneva where a wild game feed combined with an auction to raise $72,000 this year.

“This was their silver anniversary year at Geneva and in 25 years, they have raised an unbelievable $935,000 for cancer research. They expect to go over the $1 million mark next year,” Ziegler said.

Small towns like Geneva and Lyle and Carpenter, Iowa can have a big impact on cancer research. Witness the fact: The $190,000 combined total raised by Lyle-Carpenter and Geneva accounted for 30 percent of the near $700,000 total raised by the Fifth District Eagles Telethon in three states.


Only four of the 12 auctioneers — who worked the 20 hours of auction fun and fundraising, probably the most important participants of any benefit auction — showed up: Al Smith, Dave Thompson, Dwayne Hull and Dennis “Tiny” Johnson.

Ricke and Meyer — particularly Ricke, the talkative one — referred to notes to thank all of the appropriate people.

After five straight years of six-figure fundraising for cancer research, some of the volunteers were worried a recession would hold back the generosity of the LACA volunteers’ efforts this year.

“I know I was,” admitted volunteer Teresa Slowinski. “I didn’t think we would make it to six figures.”

“Neither did I,” said Louis “Tip” Taylor, another longtime volunteer. “I thought the economy would work against us.”

Scrapbooks, CDs, Harley and more

Starting with the Jan. 8, 9 and 10 pool tournament at Carpenter, Iowa, many events were responsible for the huge total.

Johnson, mayor of the Mitchell County community, as well as tournament organizer, turned in $30,000 from the event named for his first wife, Lucille, a cancer victim.

When the 2009 LACA final fundraising event was held Jan. 16 and 17, every non-believer was quickly turned into a believer.

The 2009 auction collected $39,702 from bid items alone.

Two bid items — a first-ever $4,700 gift certificate from Overby Orthodontics in Austin and a grain hauling semi tractor-trailer rig donated by wood craftsman Chuck Berg — brought a combined $7,500 from successful bidders.

A total of $2,600 was earned at a June 2008 Halfway To January Cancer Bash held on a thunderstorm-invested Saturday that had people scurrying for cover in a walk-in cooler at the Legion Post.

The Cans For Cancer aluminum can collection tallied $585.

Cash donations reached an amazing $12,321, according to the co-chairpersons.

A new Crop For A Cure scrapbooking event earned $3,500 thanks to 80 participants.

A Deer Creek Speedway 50/50 race poured $602 into the LACA cancer research pot.

A four-wheeler raffle accounted for $1,648; a Harley Davidson raffle earned $16,030; and a Halloween 2008 Haunted Barn event at the Jeff and Gorggia Ramaker farm collected $2,248.

The annual Kids Kare II poster project received $122 and the paddlewheel turned in $1,087 in profits for LACA.

Progressive Hair stylists cut hair on a Saturday afternoon at the Legion Post and earned $350 for cancer research.

The vegetable beef soup with dumplings was a crowd-pleaser on the cold winter’s weekend as well as the ham and bean soup and chili.

How pleasing it was then to hear Ricke and Meyer report the Legion Post food concessions netted $3,581 for the cancer research benefit.

Jeff Ramaker sold enough CDs of his ballad in memory of his brother to earn $1,400 for the benefit.

In the last 10 years, the LACA fundraising events have earned $965,000 for the Fifth District Eagles Cancer Telethon, where all the money goes before being distributed to the three cancer research units.

Volunteers raised another $19,000 in only a one-day auction event at the Austin Eagles Club in December, which is not to go ignored by any means, but $118,000?

It helped the Fifth District Eagles Telethon raise more than $700,000 for the fourth straight year and now $14 million over the 55-year history of the telethon.

“When we go to dinners and appreciation suppers like this in small towns throughout the region, it is always nice to see new events being tried like you are doing in Lyle,” Callier said. “Without you and what is being done in small towns everywhere we couldn’t have a telethon.”

“This money you raise here in Lyle and Carpenter and the money all the other small towns raised has never been more important than today with all the federal cutbacks that are taking place and the recession and everything,” Callier said.

“We’re going to need more next year I am sure unless things turn around in a hurry,” he said. “All I can say to all of you is ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart.”

When the tears and laughter at the LACA family reunion subsided, Ricke had two important announcements.

The next meeting of the LACA committee is at 4 p.m. March 1 at Post No. 105.

Also, a new fundraising event takes place March 28 at Post No. 105, when Jim Rosenberg, St. Ansgar, Iowa plans a barbecue.

Meanwhile, LACA volunteers are busy planning another cancer research family reunion … after all those fundraising events in 2009 push researchers a little closer to a cure.