by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
While the end goal remains the same, the 28th annual Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club Lobster Boil event will take on a whole new format for 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health emergency.
The wildly popular event, which has been held at Fountain Park in downtown Sheboygan in recent years, has grown into a “can’t miss” rite of summer in the Sheboygan County area with all net proceeds going to support technical school scholarships and technical education programs, including the Maywood Environmental Center, Bridgeway & Beyond (SCIO) and the Red Raider manufacturing initiative at both the Sheboygan North High School and Sheboygan South High School woodworking and welding shops.
Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the in-person lobster boil originally scheduled for July 17 will not take place this year.
“It is heartbreaking to have to cancel this year’s lobster boil,” Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Public Relations Committee member Kyle Whelton said. “We spent a lot of time talking about what to do with this year’s event. Above all, we felt it was most important to protect the health and safety of our club members and those in the community that support this event year after year.
“The decision to cancel was the right thing to do and our plan at this time is to return with our typical lobster boil format next year,” he said.
Instead of the in-person lobster boil, the Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club will be holding a virtual fundraising campaign starting Tuesday, July 7 and continuing through Friday, July 31 to support the Red Raider manufacturing initiative and technical school scholarships for students throughout Sheboygan County.
“We have made the decision to continue on with a virtual fundraising campaign during the month of July to help raise fundings for our Red Raider initiative and technical school scholarship for traditional and non-traditional students,” Whelton said. “We have made a $50,000 commitment to the Red Raider initiatives and our technical school scholarship program, which we are aiming to meet this year.
“We have already raised a portion of this money through other initiatives and now we have a goal of raising $30,000 to meet our Red Raider commitment in full,” he said. “A large portion of this funding has come from our lobster boil event over the years. Although the lobster boil as we know it may not be happening this year due to COVID-19, our commitment to investing in education has not wavered.”
In lieu of the lobster boil, throughout the month of July, the Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club will be engaging in a digital campaign through social media initiatives on the club’s Facebook page, as well as its website.
“Joe Sheehan was the driving force behind the development of the Red Raider manufacturing initiative and he will be featured in our kickoff video, which we plan to launch during the first week of July,” Whelton said. “We will also be featuring testimonials from some of our past scholarship recipients to depict the kind of impact the funds raised through our last lobster boil events has made in assisting members of our future workforce here in Sheboygan County.”
Those wishing to support the Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club’s Red Raider scholarship program are asked to follow the club’s Facebook page and visit its website at http://www.earlybirdrotary.org to learn how to make a financial contribution.
Checks to support the campaign can also be sent to Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club; P.O. Box 64; Sheboygan, WI 53082.
“We will be using our Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club Facebook page heavily for videos, testimonials and information on this initiative,” Whelton said. “We’ve found that generally people over 35 use Facebook more than any other social media out, while those under 35 are generally more engaged on other social media outlets like Instagram and Twitter.
“All of our club members will be engaging in each of their available individual social media platforms to help bring awareness to our campaign,” he said. “Contributions can be made on our website or checks can also be sent through the mail.”
Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Red Raider Scholarship recipient Jen Kober is among the Sheboygan County students who has benefitted greatly from the funds raised through previous lobster boil events.
“Because of the Early Bird Rotary Club, I am proud to say I have finished school and am a registered nurse,” Kober said. “Without the help from this scholarship committee, I am not sure we would have been able to afford the tuition to help me achieve my lifelong dream.
“I am currently an RN at a local hospital and I am now in the process of bridging to a four-year college to obtain my BSN,” she said. “I want to express a sincere thank you to the Early Bird Rotary Club for their support.”
For more information, contact Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club Virtual Lobster Boil Event Coordinator Mary Hayward at 920-550-1776.