Blake Rickert Fundraiser Sets Blueprint for Low-resource Organizers

Donations triple expectations during auction event


Donation jars at the ready for the Help Blake Beat Burkitt's Fundraiser. Bartenders also donated their wages and tips. Photo by: Brett Williams

Gallery photos by Brett Williams and Willy Street Blog 


Nearly three months ago, when organizers started planning the Help Blake Beat Burkitt’s fundraiser, they never thought they would nearly triple their even most ambitious monetary goal. But thats what happened when approximately 200 people packed the Atomic Koi in Fitchburg for four hours Sunday (April 27) and raised through a silent auction, raffle and donations $13,591 to help offset the cost of 4-year old Blake Rickert’s successful treatment of Burkitt’s Leukemia.

The star of the event was Blake himself who got permission to leave the hospital for a few hours to attend the fundraiser. Despite fighting an illness all week, he was all smiles as he connected with friends and family and was fascinated, as were all the kids in attendance, by the “Balloon Guy”, who fashioned balloon figurines. Other kid favorites included face painting by Blake’s Aunt Stacy Laufenberg Schmidt and temporary tattoos of the “SuperBlake” logo.

What is interesting about the effort is that the committee of around eight to ten people reached out to businesses they knew as well as drafting a simple fundraising letter to send when cold calling those businesses and organizations they didn’t.

The silent auction area was crowded all afternoon.

The silent auction area was crowded all afternoon as bidders vied for entertainment packages, Coach bags, sports memorabilia, or golf with local meteorologist Bob Lindemeier.

Seeking a few big ticket items as well as lots of smaller gift certificates, the committee grouped the items into packages tailored for a wide range of budgets; because frankly disposable income is still hard to come by just a few short years after the great recession.

“A total of 165 items, including food were donated from about 105 local businesses and  34 individuals and families.” said lead organizer Kristina Miller.

Many of the attendees were friends and family and just about all the auction items were snapped up. The remaining were distributed through a raffle which featured quite a few good prizes as well. Prior to the event, a fund at Associated Bank had been collecting donations all along.

Helping the fundraiser outperform expectations was Atomic Koi owner Hawk Sullivan who also served on the planning committee. In addition to providing the space, Sullivan also pledged that all money collected through bar sales would go straight to the Rickerts, donating the cost of labor and product dispensed.

In addition, the processing fee for all credit card transactions from drinks and to process payment for the auction items was absorbed by Sullivan. He was assisted behind the bar by his wife Natasha and employee Saul Castillo (who also participated in the planning). The Sullivan’s and Castillo donated their wages and all tips to the cause.

Blake Rickert with his grandfather (right) and an unidentified family member. Photo by: Brett Williams

Blake Rickert with his grandfather (right) and an unidentified family member. Photo by: Brett Williams

In characterizing the crush of people at the event, Sullivan remarked that the bar was so busy it was “like New Years Eve”.

While not all benefits in the future may have access to a facility owner who is willing to host an event on such generous terms; the effort serves as a blueprint for others who may not have deep connections or large budgets.

The key ingredient for the success of this event seemed to pivot on the passion of the Rickert’s friends and family as they focused hard on planning and maximized their resources. Blake has stayed focused too. He as just one more maintenance treatment to go and prospects are good that he will remain cancer-free in the future.

The HBB fund, which can accessed at any Associated Bank branch, is still accepting donations;  just reference the Blake Rickert Fundraiser. Checks can be made payable to “Blake Rickert Fundraiser.”  Receipts available upon request.


Related: Help Blake Beat Burkitt’s Leukemia This Sunday


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