Hope doesn’t just float in the village of Chaseburg, it basks in the sunshine as well. So come hell or high water in 2016, or record breaking heat in 2017, rest assured that hundreds of people will gather when this amazing community holds a special event.

The 12th annual Chaseburg Sole Burner for the American Cancer Society was held on Saturday, Sept. 23. The heat and humidity of the day didn’t stop people from walking the distance as the organization hoped to top the $1 million mark in just a dozen years of fundraising. As of press time this year’s Sole Burner had raised approximately $118,391, just $10,000 shy of the $128,419 needed for the organization to surpass its goal.

Event co-chair Linda DeGarmo said money is still filtering in and her crazy committee is confident that before they close the books for 2017 that they will succeed in reaching the hefty goal they set going into this year’s event. Last year’s event raised $110,000 dollars.

“What this amazing Chaseburg Metro Area has accomplished over the past 12 years is absolutely remarkable, but since this year’s theme was “A Million Reasons to Hope” none of us are giving up the dream of making it over the top,” DeGarmo said.

The Chaseburg Metro Area includes villages, cities and unincorporated pit stops throughout the Coulee Region whose run/walk teams make it a point of signing up, participating and donating to the annual Chaseburg Sole Burner. More than 30 teams register annually for the event.

The Chaseburg Sole Burner isn’t just a one day event. All year long dedicated volunteers and committee members hold special fundraisers including tractor and lawn mower rides, charcoal chicken and steak dinners, a chili cook-off, golf outings, wine auctions, raffles and so much more.

This year’s live auction raised $5,600, and included 40 homemade pies donated by Iris Sandvick, whose 83-year-old husband, Roy was the first one to finish the cancer survivor walk despite a triple digit heat index. Roy has battled skin cancer for 30 years and has spent more than his share of time in a medical facility since being diagnosed.

The live auction also featured a special quilt donated by the Troy Oldenburg family. Troy is a stem cell transplant and cancer survivor. The patchwork quilt features squares designed by area families honoring loved who know the reality of battling cancer first hand. The winning bidder will have their names on a plaque annually. This year’s top bid was submitted by Marvin and Linda DeGarmo ($520). The DeGarmo’s lost a daughter to cancer at a very young age.

“A bunch of love is tied up into this beautiful quilt and we’re proud to be the first name on the wall,” DeGarmo said.

Event co-chairs Linda DeGarmo and Eric Ostrem, always wear their hearts on their sleeves during the heartwarming and emotional event. The tears shed at the Sole Burner are tears of hope, that someday the word cancer will no longer be associated with death, but with survival. To date, this year’s survivor group has beat the odds and recorded 427 extra birthdays since being told they have cancer.

“We hug, we cry, but it’s all good when you’re in Chaseburg,” Co-chair Eric Ostrem said.

The 2017 honorary chairperson for the Chaseburg Sole Burner was Erin Hennessy of La Crosse. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, at the age of 18, when she was a senior at Central High School. Today, Hennessy is a student at the UW-La Crosse. She is cancer-free and was joined by a cast of cancer survivors with their own stories of triumph to tell.

“My fight is done, but others are still fighting. That’s why we need to step up and keep the hope alive,” Hennessy said.

In addition to all the ongoing events in the park hundreds of luminary bags lined the walking path in memory of loved ones who passed away from cancer or in honor of survivors who continue to fight.

“The Sole Burner is better than Christmas. We are all are so grateful for the dollars, the beautiful luminaries, food, tents and support we receive, but most of all we are grateful for the people who continue to keep fight for a cure,” DeGarmo said.

For more information or to help the Chaseburg Sole Burner over the top contact event co-chairs, Linda DeGarmo at 608-452-3367 or Eric Ostrem at 608-452-3135. Information can also be found at http://community.acsevents.org/runwalkofchaseburg and donations are accepted all year long.


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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