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WATCH NOW: Former Mayor Tim Kabat named executive director of LADCO

Former La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat has been named the new executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corporation, a nonprofit coming up on 50 years of supporting area economic growth and diversification.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Tim Kabat, former mayor of the La Crosse, speaks Tuesday at the Omni Center in Onalaska after being named the next executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corporation.

Kabat, who chose not to seek re-election after serving two terms as mayor, was announced as the new lead of LADCO during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Omni Center in Onalaska, a location chosen to highlight the collaborative spirit of the organization.

“As LADCO looks to the future, the board and staff are excited to utilize Tim’s wealth of experience in all areas of economic development ...,” said LADCO past president Jeff Wrobel. “As his focus broadens from the city to the county to the entire region, Tim will strive to improve and strengthen relationships with all the municipalities LADCO represents and the members we serve.”

As mayor, Kabat was on the board of directors for LADCO, and previously worked for the city’s planning and development department and with Downtown Mainstreet Inc. before his first mayoral win in 2013.

Patti Balacek, president of LADCO, has been leading the executive committee of the organization since the former LADCO executive director, Jorge Beltran, was terminated last fall after allegations of fraud. Beltran, who pled not guilty in April, is bound over for trial.

Kabat, who says he is honored to serve LADCO as executive director, praised the “strength and diversity of our regional economy” and the “people who live and work here and make this place special.”

He looks forward to interacting and connecting with members of the region in his new role, Kabat says, and sees the position as a good fit.

“I feel like this is the perfect role for me as I’m moving from a public sector but still in public service and LADCO’s role as a leading nonprofit — LADCO really has been a shining star, and I’m glad to be part of the organization,” Kabat said.

Senator Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) offered his congratulations to Kabat, stating, “I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Kabat on moving our community forward and creating new, exciting opportunities. Our area has a dynamic and diverse economy, and his strong leadership will help maximize our potential.

“I have known Mayor Kabat for many years and believe he is highly qualified to lead LADCO,” Pfaff said. “His continued service will be valuable for not only retaining good talent, but growing our region as well.”

Kabat says he believes the area is starting to rebound and is excited to see businesses and entities continue to open up after an over year-long struggle due to the coronavirus.

Together with other nonprofits, he hopes to “market and highlight the incredible opportunities in our area” and collaborate to best utilize government financial aid to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.

“The next several years will be critical, as our area recovers from the economic catastrophe that was COVID-19,” Kabat said. “LADCO will be on the forefront, assisting our businesses to grow and adapt and helping people get back to work.”

Says Kabat, “I’m very excited for what’s going to come next...I’m ready to get to work.”

WATCH NOW: Photos and video -- Rotary Lights: 2020 edition

WATCH NOW: A LEAP forward as Gold Star Grants total $41,800 for projects at La Crosse schools

The generous support of community donors will offer students at every grade level in La Crosse schools a chance to learn new skills and expose them to new ideas — everything from traditional Hmong music, to fly fishing, to simulated flights among the stars.

Pre-schoolers will get a chance to learn math and science concepts by using a working miniature construction crane. High school students will improve reading skills as a result of expanded literacy support in all classes.

Funding for these projects and more are among 13 grants totaling $41,800, announced Tuesday by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

Among the projects: a $5,000 grant to kickstart fundraising for a major upgrade to the District planetarium. LPEF is assisting with efforts to secure added funding.

“This round of grants touches students at every level, from pre-school to 12th grade,” said Anna Prinsen, LPEF board president and owner of Modern Crane Service. “The collaborative efforts of District teachers, and the creativity, continue to amaze us.”

Gold Star Grants are selected for funding based on creativity, ability to engage students, and the total impact or reach of the project. This is third round of grants announced this school year by LPEF, with awards totaling $91,600.

Here is a brief summary of the 13 grants:

  • $11,500 to provide amplification systems for seven classrooms at Hintgen Elementary School, making it possible for students in all classes to better hear teachers. Research shows the technology helps all students increase engagement and increase their understanding of directions given by the teacher. In particular, this will help as teachers continue to wear masks in classrooms. Recipient: Amy Oliver. This grant is underwritten in part by Independent Cycle & ATV.
  •  $7,985 to buy Science, Technology, Engineering and Math materials for all District 4K classrooms to help young students explore, play and build curiosity about the natural world and the way things work. Recipients: Pa Houa Vang, Penelope O’Reilly, Jane Erickson, Cathy Leon, and Cathy Fuchs. This grant is underwritten in part by Modern Crane Service.
  •  $7,500 to fund a workshop for all high school teachers featuring author Cris Tovani, a literacy expert and author of the books, “I Read It, But I Don’t Get It” and “Do I Really Have to Teach Reading.” Following the workshop, all teachers will incorporate added reading assignments into content area lessons, along with other strategies aimed at reducing the current two-thirds of students who are reading below benchmark levels. Recipients: Kim Butterfield, Kate Keeney, Ruth Baardseth, Alysha Feldkamp, Cindy Halter, Kristi Moulton, and Kevin Colburn. This grant is underwritten in part by the Richard Swantz Endowment Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.
  •  $5,000 to provide matching funds toward a major upgrade and purchase of a $250,000 full dome projection system for the Central High School planetarium. The new learning environment will allow students to explore, wonder, reach and celebrate—not just in astronomy but in many subjects. Half of district students would visit the Exploratorium each year, with goals to increase student enrollment in science electives and to increase student achievement. Recipient: Chad Wilkinson. This grant is underwritten in part by Gillette & Associates CPAs.
  •  $2,000 to provide matching funds to help replace outdated and culturally insensitive materials for students at Hintgen Elementary School. The leveled reading materials provide progressively challenging materials to help students move from one level to the next. Recipient: Lisa Gunnarson. This grant is underwritten in part by LHI, part of OptumServe.
  •  $1,985 to expand on a Winter Guard flag and dance corps at middle schools (funded by a previous LPEF grant) and offers an opportunity for students at the high schools to engage in theatrical performances with flags and other props. Recipient: Jason Harden. This grant is underwritten in part by the Duane and Carol Taebel Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.
  •  $1,448 to purchase fly fishing equipment to introduce Logan Middle School students to the outdoor sport that they can enjoy throughout their lifetime. The class will be taught by the school’s physical education teacher and building engineer, an experienced fly fisherman. Equipment will be shared with other District schools. Recipients: Greg Heilman and Chester Janke. This grant is underwritten in part by the Dr. Gunnar and Mary Baldwin Gundersen Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.
  •  $1,259 to buy an inclusive technology program for use by students at Southern Bluffs, helping them with engagement, executive function skills (such as memory, sequencing and attention), communication, social interaction, motor coordination and visual skills. Recipients: Nicole Kuecker and Halla Ortery. This grant is underwritten in part by the Altra Foundation.
  •  $1,000 to buy books as rewards for high school students who complete summer reading assignments in Advanced Placement English Language classes. Recipients: Kim Butterfield and Alysha Feldkamp. This grant is underwritten in part by the LPEF Rachel Gundersen Endowment for Arts & Humanities.
  •  $971 to pay for printing cookbooks featuring recipes and drawings submitted by Southern Bluffs students featuring foods that mean something special to them. Each student gets a page in the book, which also will feature recipes from school staff. Recipient: Casey Scheuerell. This grant is underwritten in part by the LPEF Judy and Randy Eddy Sr. Fund.
  •  $675 to buy traditional Hmong musical instruments to be housed at North Woods International School and provide training for district music staff to better teach use of these instruments and incorporate Hmong music into classes. Recipient: Amanda Wolfgram. This grant is underwritten in part by the LPEF McGavock Endowment for Music Education.
  •  $262 to buy a free-standing board, along with an easily changeable sign, to improve communication and facilitate interactions related to outdoor playground play for Summit Environmental School students with limited ability to communicate verbally. Recipient: Laura Kish. This grant is underwritten by the Tom and Judy Sleik Family Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.
  •  $222 to buy a high-quality USB microphone, and additional equipment, to help Logan Middle and North Woods students improve the sound quality of recordings made in a virtual setting with schoolprovided iPads. Recipient: Elizabeth Becker. This grant is underwritten by the Judy and Dave Bouffleur Fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation.

In addition to Gold Star Grants, LPEF provides other support for La Crosse schools, including Random Acts of Kindness to meet needs of students in areas such as nutrition, hygiene, clothing, and transportation. For more information, contact LPEF at 787-0226, or email David Stoeffler at:

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Red Cross, La Crosse Fire Department team up for May 8 fire safety event

The La Crosse Fire Department and American Red Cross are teaming up this week to “sound the alarm” on home fire safety.

During “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life,” La Crosse residents are invited to visit Copeland Park Saturday for a day of in-person fire education and resources from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Red Cross and fire department are also promoting the installation of free smoke alarms in the La Crosse area. Local residents can sign up for a home safety visit by calling 608-232-7468 or visiting

Patrick Corran, community risk educator for the fire department, hopes there’s a positive response to the smoke detector offer. He said detectors are required by city code but aren’t always installed.

“Like other health and safety measures, the homes we are the most concerned about are the ones where there may be some other insecurity occurring,” Corran said. “If a family has to choose between making the choice to put food on the table or buy smoke alarms, they will probably choose feeding their family. This is why this program of getting free alarms installed in homes across the city is so vitally important.”

He said the detectors being issued contain a sealed 10-year lithium battery, which eliminates the need to change batteries twice a year.

“The biggest issue we see with smoke alarm maintenance is people taking them down when they start chirping because the battery is dying,” Corrran said. “Once these units are installed, the sensor and battery are good for 10 years.”

The Red Cross is reporting an unusually busy fire season in Wisconsin. It has already assisted 1,800 people displaced by fires this year, or 15 per day. The figure is closer to 7-10 in a normal year.

Kyle Kriegl, executive director, Southwest Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross, said COVID-19 is playing a role in the increasing fire numbers.

“Home fires remain our most frequent disaster during COVID-19 ... yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape a fire,” Kriegl said. “As families spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our vulnerable neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

Justin Kern, communications director for American Red Cross of Wisconsin, said COVID-19 makes it more challenging to obtain housing on short notice after a fire. Options for sheltering large numbers of people, such as a gymnasium, are off the table.

“It’s certainly more expensive, but it’s a big part of what we do, and we find a way,” Kern said. “We get remarkable support from the public.”

Prevention is a major part of the Sound the Alarm effort. Safety tips include:

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in the home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from the home, such as a neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Practice the escape plan until everyone in the household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of the home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if the model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they should be replaced. Follow the alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

Corran said it’s important that every residence has a functioning smoke detector. He said the death rate in fires is 55 percent lower in homes where smoke detectors are activated.

“Having working and well-maintained smoke alarms in your home is one of the most important things you can do to keep your family fire safe,” Corran said. “We can’t stress their importance enough.”

IN PHOTOS: Fire on Pearl Street in Downtown La Crosse

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Gundersen Medical Foundation awarded $5 million in grants

The Gundersen Medical Foundation has been awarded over $5 million in grants toward conducting research, implementing medical education and improving patient care.

Gundersen Health System

Through private foundations and government agencies, the Gundersen Medical Foundation has received $2 million for research programs, $1.7 million for telemedicine at Gundersen’s Critical Access Hospitals, $1.3 million for Gundersen’s Central Campus System and $500,000 toward medical education.


“Because Gundersen Health System runs on such a thin margin, it would take significant patient care revenue to produce the $5 million of net revenue needed to fund the programs these grants funded,” said Gundersen Medical Foundation board chair Dr. Stephen Shapiro. “These grant-funded programs significantly improve our patient care.”

ResearchThe National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded the Wisconsin National Community Oncology Research Program (WiNCORP), a cancer clinical trial network, with a $15.6 million, multi-year grant to help make the latest treatment options available to patients with cancer. WiNCORP, a partnership between Gundersen, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ThedaCare, conducts cancer clinical trials in Wisconsin.

“We have participated in hundreds of clinical trials in the past that have been supported by the NCI. We look forward to working with the NCI for this next six-year grant to bring even more cancer clinical trials to Gundersen. This is truly an opportunity that patients would not have if it were not for this grant funding,” said Dr. Kurt Oettel, department chair for Hematology and Medical Oncology at Gundersen and principal investigator for WiNCORP.

Critical Access A $1.2 million award from the Health Resources & Services Administration will benefit telehealth resources at Gundersen’s Critical Access Hospitals in Boscobel, Friendship, Whitehall and Hillsboro, Wis., and West Union, Iowa.

Thorough telemedicine technology, including carts equipped with stethoscopes, hand cameras and other devices, physicians can provide care to patients in rural locations without the need for travel.

“Our neonatologists can provide emergency assistance after a difficult delivery or newborn in distress and our pediatric intensivists guide care to children in their ER in respiratory distress. Infectious Disease will provide consultations to patients admitted at the (Critical Access Hospitals),” said Jessica Easterday, telemedicine program manager. “This is a true partnership to provide the best care as quickly as possible to patients. It also can reduce the need for transfer, if the patient is stabilized and can stay locally.”

GHS Central Campus System

A grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice will support Gundersen’s Crime Victim Services, which provides advocacy and therapy to victims of crime and abuse at no cost to the individual.

From Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020, Crime Victim Services staff served 1,046 survivors of crime and abuse. Services are available to those in Gundersen’s coverage regions who have experienced any type of personal crime, including but not limited to, domestic violence, sexual violence, robbery and assault.

Therapy services are available to interested individuals who have experienced sexual violence, and survivors of crime and abuse can receive emotional support and safety services, information and referral, and criminal justice support at any point in their experience.

Grant funding also allows CVS staff to open referral pathways and educate Gundersen medical staff so they are best able to provide care to survivors of crime and abuse.


A three-year grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will help fund two positions in Gundersen’s Family Medicine Residency program. In 2016, Gundersen developed the residency to train family medicine physicians with a special emphasis on full-spectrum rural training.

In addition to standard residency training, family medicine residents also receive training in ambulatory care, inpatient medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN.

“The grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services truly supports Medical Education, and specifically, the Family Medicine Residency as we strive to meet our mission, to distinguish ourselves through excellence in patient care, education, research, and improved health in the communities we support,” said Dr. Greg Thompson, medical director of Medical Education. “The financial impact of the grant supports our efforts to enhance the education of the Family Medicine residents though rural educational experiences, so that they train in an environment in which they will practice. Training in a rural environment is crucial to the recruitment and retention of Family Medicine physicians for the rural communities in our service areas.”

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks