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A celebration of generosity

Matthew McConaughey guest appearance at U.S. Venture Open
Matthew McConaughey was a previous guest at the U.S. Venture Open, supporting charitable organizations dedicated to children’s education, health and wellness. U.S. Venture Open photo

By Kris Leonhardt


GREEN BAY/APPLETON – What started as a fundraiser to help a young girl has turned into a movement to eradicate poverty in northeast Wisconsin.

“In 1986, Bill Schmidt had read an article about a girl in need and said, basically, that he felt like we had been given a lot. ‘Much is given; much is required’ is sort of a family motto and said, ‘You know, we should host a golf outing to see if we can raise some money to help with some clothes for her.’ And, they ended up raising $40,000 the first year and eventually, it became one of the first funds at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley region,” explained U.S. Venture Director of Giving and Community Engagement Greg Vandenberg.

“So fast, forward; that has grown now to where our goal this year is to raise $5 million.”

Last year’s event raised $4.8 million, with 100% going toward non-profit work in northeast Wisconsin.

“And, our focus really is to end poverty in northeastern Wisconsin. So, U.S. Venture pays 100% of the costs of the entire event. We typically bring in a guest of honor. Charlize Theron is our guest of honor this year. U.S. Venture does a grant to the charity of the choice of the guest of honor, so we don’t pay them for coming. We tried to create a partnership with them where we’ll give to their charity of choice; but, again, because we want the dollars from all the partners to stay here in northeastern Wisconsin U.S. Venture does a separate grant to the charity of choice for the guest of honor. So this year, it’s Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project, which does a lot of work in Africa. She’s from South Africa,” Vandenberg added.

What began as a golf outing has become a “celebration of work and generosity.”

“We’ll have six golf courses full of golfers on Wednesday, and we’ll have more than 800 golfers… We do a traditional family style roasted chicken and perch dinner for 1,200 people and do a live online auction and then Charlize will be there for an interview and like the dinner presentation,” he said.

The funds raised from the event will then get deployed over the next calendar year in northeast Wisconsin, with a focus on ending poverty.

“So, looking at everything from homelessness to food insecurity to job placement, transition from incarceration to working wage and addiction and recovery, substance abuse services, education, how to create pathways for students who might be deficient or like foster kids,” he explained.

“Oftentimes, when they turn 18 there’s a bit of a cliff, as far as support services go. So, how do we transition — youth who don’t maybe have a pathway to self-sustainability?”

Charlize Theron will be the of guest of honor at this year’s U.S. Venture Open. Brent Stirton/CTAOP photo

Self-sustainability includes supporting efforts to introduce affordable housing.

And Vandenberg added that they also focus heavily on childhood learning and development.

“We have a large initiative around child care throughout northeastern Wisconsin,” he added.

“There are a lot of these issues that a single nonprofit cannot solve.”

So funding goes to the foundation’s “Basic Needs Giving Partnership” — a regional nonprofit born out of the U.S. Venture Open

“There’s not a single grant to a single nonprofit that is going to end poverty; it has to be a collective approach. The issue of poverty is complex; it is incredibly intertwined into a number of different areas and the stakeholders to be at the table to help solve it really need to be at a systems level. We talk about having employers, nonprofits, local government, having the voice of lived experience at the table. That is something the Basic Needs Giving Partnership is focused on,” he stated.

Vandenberg said that their charitable works are what the company is most known for in northeastern Wisconsin.

“Not a lot of people know what the company does as a business. We are known for the generosity of the company, which is amazing,” he said.

“When we talk to other people nationally who maybe are coming in for the event or haven’t heard about the event, they’re amazed at the scope and scale of the event, amazed at how many partners are involved.

“It’s also one of the beautiful pieces of it is how much how many dollars come in from outside of northeastern Wisconsin and are invested to end poverty in northeastern Wisconsin.

“So, U.S. Venture is the second-largest tire wholesale dealer in the U.S. and so there are more than 30 manufacturers that we work with from a tire standpoint. Many of them are partners of the U.S. Venture Open; so, if you think of the Goodyears, Bridgestones, Pirelli and Continental — these are all national tire companies that are partners and are incredibly generous and giving dollars to the event. Which, in turn, are invested to end poverty in northeastern Wisconsin. So, we talk about economic impact, and we think about restaurants and hotels. Yes, all of that happens through this event too, but there’s also that direct investment from a social impact standpoint where companies are giving directly to end poverty.”

The event is held the second Wednesday of August each year, with this year’s taking place on Aug. 8.

For more information, visit www.usventureopen.com.

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