A Simple Cause

What makes a good cause?

What’s the most worthy reason to donate money and time? Is one disease or one country or one forest or one endangered animal more deserving than the next?  If you went around asking people for the best reason for a fundraiser, you’d likely get as many answers as people whom you asked.  But if there is one cause easy for most anyone to jump on board with, it’s helping to save the lives of children.  That’s exactly why a simple garden party hosted by Jim and Annette Ostrom in 2011 has grown into an annual event and in just four short years has managed to raise over $300,000 for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

The simplicity of the event is a large part of what has helped to make it so successful.  The very basis for that simplicity is the venue.  See, when Jim Ostrom isn’t busy being a Partner at  MilkSource and when the Wisconsin weather finally gets around to cooperating each Spring – he fancies himself as a bit of a garden designer.  The setting for this annual fundraiser is the grounds at the Ostrom’s De Pere, Wisconsin home.  Even as the event continues to grow, it’s one thing Jim would like to continue providing.  He enjoys displaying his botanical creations as much as the partygoers seem to enjoy gathering among them.

The idea for the event started when Jim and Annette decided they wanted to find a way to give back. Wisconsin’s dairy industry has been good to their family, so they wanted to return the favor.  Deciding to raise money for a good cause begged that very question: what ‘a good cause’ meant.  As they along with others took part in answering, one topic seemed to keep coming up – kids, more specifically, sick kids.  Jim says they realized through talking with friends and business partners, nearly everyone’s family seemed to be “just one degree of separation” from a child who had been touched by illness.  Ultimately, it led them to choose Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as the beneficiary of their fundraising efforts.

Jim and Annette continue the theme of simplicity by touting the party’s focus as “Bringing friends together to improve the lives of children”.  The list of friends who attend and support the party has grown to include people from every corner of the Agriculture Industry: farmers, banks, trucking companies, manufacturers, hoof trimmers, excavators, cheese makers, electricians, dairy cooperatives, and veterinary supply companies like ANIMART, Inc.  Among the significant list of sponsors ranging from Member Sponsors to Bronze and up to Platinum; MilkSource and Brian Retzlaff Trucking, LLC have earned the top spots at the Platinum level Sponsorship.  Luckily, there is always room on the list for more benefactors.

The Ostroms hope the list of friends will continue to gain supporters and as that happens, the Dairy Cares fundraiser will grow from a ‘Jim and Annette event’ to an industry event.  While they’re thrilled to provide the venue and can’t help but provide passion for children and their families - Jim explains because agriculture is a prosperous industry for many, he feels it’s important to find ways to pay it forward.

Jim and Annette have been blessed with four children and are in the midst of experiencing a daughter who is soon bound for college, two high schoolers who help out on the farm, and a little guy who’s just at the beginning of his education.  Carlie, Mac, Shelby and Tristen have given the couple much to be thankful for.

As parents they feel blessed their children haven’t had any serious health issues, nonetheless there was an opportunity for them to experience the level of care provided by the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin when a situation arose with one of their kids.  They wanted expert care, but Jim makes point to mention when they took their child there, they refrained from ‘name dropping’ or touting themselves as benefactors to the hospital.  Because of that they were able to experience the care and compassion afforded to every child and every family without wondering if it was tied to their donations.  They were not disappointed. Each step of the way, each doctor, each nurse, each phone call and visit was handled with kindness, capability and consideration at the highest level.  If the couple had any doubt about choosing to donate funds to the organization prior to visiting, they certainly didn’t afterwards.   

Besides proving on the front line they are an organization worth investing in, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is also quite happy to take part in the event itself, each year sending someone to give a presentation to partygoers.  Hearing directly from hospital staff helps to tie something tangible to donations and when coupled with a lighthearted evening, makes for a nice event without wasting funds on trinkets to appease donators.  While attendees get an evening filled with beauty and camaraderie, complete with food, drinks, and sunset on the river – there is careful focus to where the dollars are spent to make the quality event happen.  Also adding to the donation totals is the committee who puts the event together – about twenty people – that consists entirely of volunteers, leaving 100% of the net proceeds to be given directly to the hospital, rather than being spent on administrative fees.

As the event grows, fortunately Sponsorship Co-Chairs Jim Ostrom and Laurie Fischer of DBA have found many generous people who are willing to help their mission of providing support with funding for cures of childhood diseases and to help children and parents cope with the pain, stress and worry caused by a serious diagnosis.  Most of the participation is secured through mailings and word of mouth.  That being said… they still need more help.

Information about this worthy cause can be found via the Dairy Cares website at www.dairycaresofwisconsin.org.  There you can see a list of the sponsors, find out about sponsorship opportunities yourself or even check out photos of past years’ events featuring gorgeous views, smiling attendees and of course, Jim’s beautiful gardens.  You can also contact Jim or Laurie via the website with any questions you may have about becoming involved.

About the Author:
Shelli Manning is a freelance writer who has partnered with ANIMART, Inc. to share the human interest side of individuals in production agriculture and communicate their passions which contribute to our unique American Story. She is the published author of Little Fish, as well as a motivational speaker on women’s issues and an advocate for the reduction of domestic violence.