Dairy Community Turns Party Into a Cause for Kids

Four years ago, Bill Schaumberg and his pregnant wife Kelly attended a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin because his employer was a sponsor. At the time, it was just a pleasant summer date night for the couple. They didn’t know that it would come to mean much more.

“We just wanted to support a good cause,” Schaumberg said, “and lo and behold, a month and a half later her water broke, and our daughter was born three months early.”

Charlotte, below, weighed 1.5 pounds. For her first two weeks, she struggled to gain weight to survive. Finally, to improve her odds, the baby was transported in a tiny incubator by ambulance from a local Green Bay hospital two hours south to Children’s Hospital near Milwaukee. Here, she would be in the hands of a top hospital for neonatal care.

“I remember being nervous and scared when they picked her up for the ambulance ride,” Schaumberg said. But he also felt hope. “Knowing the history behind Children’s, we were definitely relieved we were at a place where they could find the answer.”

That’s a familiar feeling for families who depend on the hospital. And to members of the Wisconsin dairy community, Children’s is a vital organization.

In 2010, members of the Wisconsin dairy community attended a casual get-together at the home of Jim Ostrom, co-founder of MilkSource, a dairy company that fosters sustainable practices. They had so much fun, they decided to make it an annual affair — for a cause – and formed Dairy Cares of Wisconsin. Choosing their cause came easily.

“We all either had a child or a brother or a sister or a very close friend whose child had been treated at Children’s Hospital,” said Deric Duquaine, general counsel for MilkSource.

These days, Ostrom and his wife Annette host a Garden Party each year at their home. It’s the same event the Schaumbergs first attended four years ago. Anyone is welcome to attend and donate. The organization is run by volunteers, so 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Children’s Hospital.

To date, Dairy Cares of Wisconsin has raised $847,000 – thanks to everyone from small dairy farmers to cheese companies to farm construction companies, suppliers and more.

“Even a small, one-person dairy farm donated $20, and it goes all the way up to our platinum sponsors, who donate at a several-thousand-dollar level,” said Duquaine, the charity’s treasurer.

There has been such a positive response to Dairy Cares of Wisconsin that this year they added a dairy-themed run. More than 1,300 participants registered for the 5k, 10k and one-mile-walk events.

Duquaine attributes their success to Children’s Hospital’s life-changing work.

“You think about a neighbor, you think about a family member who had a child treated there, and you say, ‘You know what? That’s a worthy cause.’”

Charlotte is living proof. Today the 3-year-old is doing great.

“She’s a spitfire and funny,” Schaumberg said. “As time went on, we just got a feeling that we’re going to be OK. We’re at the point where we don’t have to go back to Children’s anymore.”