We continue our Community Helper series by recognizing the work of Brad Luepke from the Bonduel area. Brad volunteers his time coaching middle school girls basketball and also organizes Racing for a Reason at the Shawano Speedway, which is an annual event that raises money for childhood cancer awareness and continues to grow in popularity.
“In our six years that we’ve done it, we’ve raised $70,000,” Luepke said of the event’s success. “The first year it was about $5,000 that we raised and this last it was about $17,000. It’s just one night and ends up about being 130 bucket drops or more and about 15 silent auctions, but the community gets behind it. A lot of people show up for that and it’s always nice when a community backs a project like that.”
Raising money for childhood cancer charities has a special place in Luepke’s heart, after the disease personally affected his family.
“My son was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 3,” said Luepke. “He went through four years of chemo. It actually started with the Shawano Speedway workers calling me and wanting to do a fundraiser for my family. We already had a fundraiser done, so we decided to raise money for local charities and it’s grown since then. He’s doing fine now, but we just want continue to give back.”
Racing for a Reason typically donates to two charities, St. Vincent’s Child Life Services, and a local charity in Shawano called Heal Art, but Luepke hopes with the continued growth, they’ll be able to add a third, local charity this year.
“I think we’re going to give it to a charity out of Green Bay that gives families trips to Blue Harbor Resort, weekends away, just to get them away from the whole cancer and treatments and stuff like that. It’s always nice to keep it local so you can see what the money goes to.”
This year, Racing for a Reason will be held July 22 at the Shawano Speedway. Along with organizing that event, Luepke also takes pride in coaching the 8th grade St. Paul girls basketball team, which made it to the national tournament this season.
“I call them all my daughters, they call me dad all the time,” Luepke said of the close bond with the team. “It’s more than basketball. It’s teaching them life lessons. A lot of stuff that happens on the court in practice relates to stuff they do in school and life, just the comradery and watching them grow. I have a couple girls now playing for Wisconsin Lutheran College. To me, it’s all about the kids.”
Coaching basketball takes a big commitment, between hours spent at practices, games, and open gyms. Combining that with soliciting donations for Racing for a Reason, Luepke manages to keep busy, but it wasn’t always that way.
“I will say, when my son got sick and I saw how people gave back to us, and how they would come over and rake our lawn and mow the lawn, that was sort of a wake-up call for me that it’s time to give back. I was coaching at that time already, so I was still volunteering, but I love it.”
Volunteering has spread across Luepke’s family, as he says his daughter Sydney helps him do a lot of things, such as with basketball games, or bagging up donations for Racing for a Reason. Luepke says he’s thankful the whole family is on-board.
Luepke enjoys all of the work he does, but while finding success on the court is great for when he’s coaching, it’s not what he enjoys most about it.
“The thing that I enjoy is seeing the [players] five, six, eight years after I’ve had them and what success they’ve had, whether it’s in basketball or in school,” Luepke explained. “For me, the biggest thing is if you make a positive impact on their life going forward, that does more for me than any basketball win ever will.”
This year, success came both on and off the court for Luepke’s St. Paul’s girls basketball team, after they qualified for nationals for the second time in six years.
Overall, Luepke says he truly appreciates the time he spends donating and encourages those thinking of doing the same to take the plunge.
“What I say about volunteering is do something you enjoy,” he recommended. “I enjoy raising money for childhood cancer. I enjoy basketball. If you find something you enjoy, go volunteer. Get your feet wet. It doesn’t even feel like you volunteer, you just enjoy it. For me, it’s all about the kids, so anytime I can get involved with the kids, I’m there.”
TCHDailyNews congratulates Brad Luepke, this week’s Community Helper