Hoppy to help

Rabbit hunting group continues to pitch in with fundraiser to fight multiple sclerosis

AN ELMER FUDD SHOOTING GALLERY, manned by Mike Glider and Dan Leischer, was one of the attractions at the 17th annual Rabbits Unlimited Ltd. Hunt to Cure MS held recently at Circle B Recreation Center in Cedarburg. Organizers have raised nearly half a million dollars over the years to fight multiple sclerosis. Photo by Sam Arendt

HAPPY TO SELL raffle tickets during the Rabbits Unlimited Ltd. Hunt to Cure MS were Nicole Kiefert (left) and Emmy Waldhart. Photo by Sam Arendt

MEMBERS OF THE EXTENDED Bell family and other supporters gathered for a group portrait at the most recent Hunt to Cure MS event, which the family started in a Town of Saukville garage 17 years ago. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

The number of volunteers, donors and attendees at the annual Rabbits Unlimited Ltd. Hunt to Cure MS continues to grow.

Like rabbits.

And so does the money they raise.

This year’s event at the Circle B Recreation Center in Cedarburg raised more than $60,000 and was attended by more than 400 people, including about 200 rabbit hunters, organizers said.

In the 17 years since it started, the annual event has raised nearly $500,000 to fight multiple sclerosis.

“We’re getting very close to that (half million) number,” said Linda Bell Chesak, a Town of Saukville resident and one of the organizers. 

Chesak said the final tally from the Feb. 2 event hasn’t been made, but estimates are that it was one of the best the group has held yet. 

“It was a very good crowd,” she said.

It’s a long way from the first rabbit hunt held 17 years ago by members of the Bell family in their garage. That first one started with a rabbit hunt in the morning and a few items raffled off during the day.

About $400 was raised that first year, and it was decided to donate the money to the MS Society of Wisconsin in memory of two cousins who died from the disease.

The event grew and eventually moved to the Railroad Station bar in Saukville. Last year it moved to Circle B.

“We just outgrew the Railroad Station,” Chesak said.

The event occurs every year on the first Saturday in February. The day begins with hunters, in teams of three, gathering for a morning of rabbit hunting. At midday, they join other volunteers and supporters for a day of raffles, auctions, games and food and beverages.

Raffle and auction items are often guns of various kinds.

Last year’s event raised $58,000, bringing the total raised to $418,000.

Of the money raised last year, $50,000 went to multiple sclerosis research, $3,000 to scholarships for families with multiple sclerosis and $5,000 to the MS Navigator’s Program, an organization that provides support and assistance to family’s affected by the disease.

“While the event is geared toward hunting, you don’t have to be a hunter to enjoy yourself,” Chesak said. 

All the food is donated or homemade, Chesak. 

The organization has expanded beyond a cherished cause of the Bell family. Others affected by the disease have gotten on board so that half of the non-profit’s board of directors are from outside the Bell clan.

Despite the good intentions and fundraising success of the group, a handful of protestors showed up at this year’s event, questioning the morality of hunting rabbits to raise money for charity.

“We explain to them that it’s not just about shooting rabbits,” Chesak said. “Everyone is licensed. It’s completely legal. All the rabbits that are shot are eaten.”

For more information, go online to rabbitsunlimited.org.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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