Scholars group celebrates 24th gala

Boosters gather to help with scholarships
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Leader Photo by Scott Williams Helping donors renew or start their endowment contributions Friday are, from left, seated, Barb Schmid and Amy Teplate, volunteers for the Dollars for Scholars program.

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Shannon Dawn, left, and Jason Kuehl look over items at the silent auction Friday during the Dollars for Scholars gala at The Gathering in Shawano.

Education got the red-carpet treatment Friday as members of the Shawano community turned out for the annual Shawano Dollars for Scholars gala banquet.

More than 200 people showed their support for the student scholarship program at the organization’s 24th annual gala at The Gathering banquet hall in Shawano.

The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization, which provides scholarships annually to local high school graduates continuing their education.

The organization has awarded nearly $2 million in scholarships to hundreds of students since 1993.

Supporter Mike Van Rite said he has been a booster for years because he enjoys seeing charitable donations work in such a tangible way as helping Shawano kids continue their educations.

“What better way to contribute?” he said. “I think it’s a great way to spend some money.”

The gala, which raises about $20,000 a year, included a silent auction, raffles and endowment sponsorship sign-ups, in a festive atmosphere that had participants in high spirits.

Greeting the crowd were Dollars for Scholars President Troy Edwards and master of ceremonies Vincenzo Badalamenti.

Badalamenti told the crowd he was impressed by the Dollars operation, saying that during his high school days, he had little idea how scholarships worked.

“I thought scholarships came from trees,” he said. “This is super cool.”

Dollars for Scholars began with a small group of local business leaders and has grown into vast community network with an endowment large enough to support every high school graduate who applies. The organization received a donation of $7.5 million a few years ago from the estate of Judge Michael Eberlein and his wife, Joanne.

Other major sponsors of Friday’s gala included The Shawano Leader, BMO Harris Bank, Charlie’s County Market, Reinhart Foods, Cellcom and Christensen Publishing.

Supporter Mike Stupecky recalled that the program awarded scholarships to his sons, both of whom are currently attending college.

Stupecky called it important to keep the program flourishing for future generations.

“I just like to give back to something that’s given to my sons,” he said. “It’s for a great cause.”