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Balloons return for record-breaking Auction of Champions

Auction of Champions logo

​​​​​​​The old was new once again at this year's Auction of Champions, where a record $313,000 was raised to benefit the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC).

Katie Heiman had the last balloon standing. Katie Heiman had the last balloon standing.

​The generosity of Marshfield Clinic supporters, employees and community members was on display during this wild adventure. The grand finale, a fixture at past AOCs, was resurrected in the form of balloons, which provided additional "pop" to the evening.

The 300-plus people who attended the gala at RiverEdge Golf Course helped surpass last year's total of $279,692 to support NFMC's farm safety programs and research. Since the first Auction in 1982, the annual gala has raised more than $3.3 million for NFMC, a center of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute (MCRI).

"We are truly grateful for the community's support of agriculture and of our programs and services that benefit hardworking farmers," said Tammy Ellis, NFMC education/outreach specialist. "Our donors' generosity is making it possible for the Farm Center to address significant and preventable threats to the farm population's well-being, such as tractor rollovers and skin cancer."

This year's auction featured a safari adventure theme. Guys donned ties with ostriches and zebras and the ladies broke out leopard-print dresses for the event.

"It was remarkable seeing people having fun with the new ideas we implemented and dressing to the safari theme," said Tiffany Halan, special events coordinator, Development. "We're already discussing next year's event to come up with another theme participants can get excited about."

Meat packages were popular items during the live auction bidding, with one package selling for $8,500. Jewelry, travel packages and Green Bay Packers tickets were among the 27 live auction items, in addition to a terrific silent auction.

Enjoying the Auction were (from left) Dr. Susan Turney, Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO, Floyd Hamus (who bought the Clay Matthews Packers helmet) and Dr. Ann Smith. Enjoying the Auction were (from left) Dr. Susan Turney, Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO, Floyd Hamus (who bought the Clay Matthews Packers helmet) and Dr. Ann Smith.

Murray Brilliant, Ph.D., Center for Human Genetics, MCRI​, was the winner of the one-week stay in Scariff, Ireland, donated by Ann McKiernan, Speech Pathology, and Fergus McKiernan, M.D., Rheumatology, Marshfield Center. The trip was a new pre-auction raffle, generating $15,000 with the winner announced at the event.

Another highlight of the evening was the $38,000 raised for skin cancer screening though the Fund-a-Need auction. Attendees donated the funds after Clayton Green, M.D., Dermatology, Marshfield Center, described his experience working with farmers and how their busy schedules often preclude them from getting screened. The funds will be used to perform community outreach and provide skin cancer screenings at local agricultural events.

Funds raised also support key activities such as editorial management of the Journal of Agromedicine, a peer-reviewed publication that delivers timely research, reviews and case reports to rural health practitioners; hand-washing stations at the Central Wisconsin State Fair; and safety information booths at outreach events.

The grand finale featured balloons. Individuals who bought eight key items, and two random picks from the audience, stepped forward to claim a balloon. Auctioneer Jerry Meissner then started a bidding frenzy, raising $17,000, in which the individuals holding a balloon could sell it or take a chance on ending up with their balloon being popped.  The last balloon standing won!

It was all in great fun, with four exciting grand prizes up for the taking. Katie Heiman was the grand finale winner and selected a Polaris Ranger ATV. Her other options were a John Deere zero-turn radius lawn mower, a two-year lease on a Jeep, or a Yamaha WaveRunner personal watercraft.

The grand finale balloon popping was always done by Bill Allen, long time AOC supporter who died in 2007. Taking his place on stage was his wife, Pat, who popped the last balloon.

"Our dedicated and enthusiastic AOC committee recommended we bring back the popular balloon event and it certainly did not disappoint.  The ideas and creativity that this group of community members shows year after year is incredible and it is an honor to work with them," Halan said.  Chaired by Josh Meissner of Norm-E-Lane Farm, the AOC committee is composed of 40 volunteers who work tirelessly to make this event a success.