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‘What we raise here stays here’

By Lisa Curtis

Special to the News Graphic

CEDARBURG — It was a pretty lofty goal that Mel’s Charities had in mind in early August, when it set out to raise some $80,000 during a pandemic. Organizers knew that holding their historically unsocially distanced Fun Run/Walk and pig roast in late September could not occur due to COVID-19 risks.

So they opted to try the unthinkable, and simply passed a hat for donations. It was a throwback to the charity’s first-ever fundraising efforts in 1999, when they raised $350 by asking patrons at the Cedars III in Cedarburg for donations.

Between Aug. 9 and Sept. 25 of this year, Mel’s raised a staggering $88,000 by “passing the hat.” But donations have continued to pour in. With a postmark before Sept. 25, checks are still coming in and organizers have raised close to $95,000.

Tom “Mel” Stanton, who has seen plenty of random acts of generosity over the last 21 years, was flabbergasted.

“Our mission really resonates with the community,” he said. “We have fun. We help out the special needs community, human service groups and memorial scholarships.”

Their ultimate goal was to raise what they did last year to continue to help those organizations that count on Mel’s Charities.

“Our goal was to impact as many lives as we did in 2019,” Stanton said.

That meant giving away an estimated $186,000. But other Mel’s Charities events held since last year have been drastically changed due to the pandemic, leaving them with a shortfall.

The deficit was handily covered with the “pass the hat” fundraiser and the Wayne’s event.

The donations that came in ranged from checks from Special Olympians for $20 or $25, to business contributions of $10,000.

A young man wanted to make a donation for his 21st birthday and agreed to match any donations he received, up to $340. He ended up donating $1,000, Stanton said.

“Whatever comes in, we’ll be blessed and we’re going to give it away,” he said. “What we raise here stays here.”

Mary Champeny delivers pig roast meals to waiting customers during the Mel’s Charities 2020 Pig Roast Pick Up event held at Wayne’s Drive-In in Cedarburg last Sunday.

Photo by Mark Justesen/News Graphic staff

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