by Dave Boehler
for The Beacon
Tyson Gutschow had no idea what was in store when his wife told him they were going out to dinner.
“It was sort of funny because she goes, ‘we’re going to dress up tonight,’” he said. “And normally I like to be casual. Then I sort of thought something was going on.”
Later that night, Gutschow found out he won the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award for 2021-2022.
“My jaw dropped,” he said. “I’m like, ‘oh my God, she got me!’ She didn’t tell me about it.
“I got the award and it was a great honor. It’s not because of me, it’s because of everyone in the community that is so generous and donates to our fund.”
That fund is Children with Cancer of Sheboygan County, which just held a brat fry Saturday and will be hosting its annual golf outing on Aug. 14.
“We had a number of good applicants, and Tyson just was the cream of the crop,” said Bill Richards, a member of the Sheboygan Elks Lodge who nominated Gutschow.
Gutschow also contributes to the Sheboygan A’s, the Sheboygan Bowling Association, Sheboygan Diamond Club, a number of youth sports as well as other organizations in the area.
“We make our money in this community, we want to give it back to this community,” he said.
Gutschow, who owns a beverage company and graduated from Sheboygan North – as did his wife and three children – is the president of Children with Cancer.
It was started by his now-deceased parents, Robert and Donna, on their 40th wedding anniversary in 1999.
They knew a couple of families whose children had cancer, so instead of gifts, the husband and wife asked for money to create the fund. Around $2,000 was collected the first year.
“We’ve taken now to a different level,” Gutschow said. “The word of mouth from that – the Kohler Company donates to it now – and the attention we get from doing events. We have bar owners that run charity events for us. One example is Denny’s Bar. The owner is retiring and the proceeds from the final night – anyone that got a picture with him had to pay five bucks and it went to the Children With Cancer Fund. … It’s just overwhelming what all these bars do, and to help out this little fund.
“All I can say is, it’s an award that, yeah, I get that I get it, but like I said, it’s the community. Yeah, I’m the guy asking for donations and putting things together for the fund, making sure the gifts get to the kids, but truly I couldn’t do it without the community.”
At the brat fry last year, Gutschow says 99 dozen hard rolls were used and $11,000 was collected – in just four hours.
“It was just incredible,” he said.
The golf outing sells out every year and raises an average of $30,000.
The money goes directly to families in the county struggling with expenses of having a child with cancer. The fund helps with gas cards (for the drives to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee), groceries, lodging, wigs upon request and family gifts.
“It blows my mind the generosity of our community,” Gutschow said. “It’s overwhelming. To see people come out for our brat fry, cars are lined up, we have donation jars and people put in $20 bills, $100 bills. It’s crazy. It just shows our community, especially children with cancer and what they all have to go through … “
However, Gutschow can’t help but get teary-eyed when talking about a recent child who lost its battle with cancer.
For those children, the fund puts a special stone at Bookworm Gardens so family and friends can visit.
“Obviously we never want to see anyone pass, but at least there’s some place for them to go besides the grave site to view and remember that child,” he said.
Despite the award, and his children now calling him COY (citizen of the year) instead of dad, Gutschow remains humble.
“They joke around with me about it,” he said. “It’s great. You always want to lead by example, and that’s what I’m doing for my kids.
“Hopefully, when they can have some more time to do the fundraising and things as they get older, hopefully they’ll take it over because there’s such a need.
“You see these kids, and hear about the cancer, it’s so expensive for families and the hardship they have to go through. It’s crazy.”