‘Milwaukee’s Finest’ campaign nets $55,000

After watching her brother face the daily struggles of cystic fibrosis (CF) his entire life, Lisa Hedrick hopes that one day, with her help, CF will instead stand for “cure found.”

Hedrick, principal at St. Bruno Parish School in Dousman, was honored on Thursday with the “Breath of Life” Award for contributing the most funds to the 2015 “Milwaukee’s Finest” campaign – more than $16,500. The fourth annual fundraising drive empowered nine young professionals to raise as much money as possible over 11 weeks for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – Wisconsin Chapter.

Together, their efforts generated a total of $55,000. That figure was $5,000 shy of the campaign’s $60,000 goal but still impressive for a group of nine, organizers said, particularly as participation numbers were down this year.

Last year’s “Milwaukee’s Finest” campaign featured 11 honorees and surpassed the $49,000 fundraising mark. While the 2015 drive kicked off with 11 honorees, nine completed the 11-week fundraising run.

Rick Verthein, chair of Milwaukee’s Finest and a financial advisor at Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., said that with numbers down he was not as confident this year’s fundraising total would trump those of past years.

“You can never jump to conclusions,” he said Thursday evening, when CFF recognized all nine honorees at a reception held at InterContinental Milwaukee.

He credits creativity on the part of honorees as well as their ambition in organizing large-scale fundraising events, for the campaign’s success.

“This was kind of a go big or go home kind of group,” Verthein said.

Each “Milwaukee’s Finest” honoree, who was nominated by a supervisor, colleague or other contact, aimed to raise at least $2,500 toward CFF’s mission to support both research of cystic fibrosis and families impacted by the disease.

Honorees could collect funds in whatever ways they wanted. While much of Hedrick’s funds stemmed from donations she pulled in through an “old-fashioned letter writing campaign,” she said, she also tapped into the generosity of her students. By framing a competition between her students and those of another school, Hedrick raised $2,500. The classroom that topped out with the most funds will have a chance to attack Hedrick with silly string early next month.

Hedrick also brought her younger brother, Tony Arenas, into her school to talk to students about the health struggles he endures living with cystic fibrosis. The chronic disease causes mucus to accumulate in the lungs and digestive tract among other areas in the body.

His story better connected her students to the differences that their dollars will make, Hedrick said.

“He gave them something to see what their money was going toward,” she said.

Arenas fueled much of Hedrick’s motivation to be named the top fundraiser of this year’s campaign, particularly as he has confronted significant health challenges this year, she said.

“I wanted to come out victorious because I felt like I wanted to do right by my brother,” she said, adding that she wanted to be able to share her victory with him during his wedding day, which falls on Sunday.

Even as Arenas has battled health challenges brought on by cystic fibrosis, Hedrick said she maintains hope that a cure for the disease will be found.

“I think a cure will be found in my brother’s lifetime…He’s really had a hard last few months, but I think that there will be a cure in his lifetime,” she said.

For her place as the campaign’s top fundraiser, Hedrick has won a vacation getaway.

In addition to Hedrick, this year’s class of honorees included Doug Hipple of Bank Mutual, Bryan Johnsen of Tri City National Bank, Deborah Ladd of Cohen Fund Audit Services, Mike Lauber of Ernst & Young LLP, Stephen Minutolo of Kohl’s and the Wisconsin Army National Guard, Julian Palacios of Johnson Controls, Bryan Schauland of Johnson Bank and Kevin Strong of ETE Reman.

BizTimes Media sponsored the 2015 campaign along with FM102.1, Bank Mutual, Johnson Bank, Cohen Fund Audit Services, Rick Verthein with Robert W. Baird, Tri City National Bank, ActionCOACH of Elm Grove, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, InterContinental Milwaukee and AVC, and White Dog Photography & Design.

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