U.S. Venture Open breaks all records

Written by: Mary Harp-Jirschele, Executive Director, J. J. Keller Foundation, Inc.
August 14, 2014

Wednesday’s annual U.S. Venture Open was cause for celebration from a number of perspectives. The J. J. Keller Foundation extended its granting collaboration with the Schmidt family for another three years, presenting a check for $2.4 million destined for distribution in the community through the Basic Needs Giving Partnership. On top of that, the one-day golf outing on six different courses throughout the greater Fox Valley raised a record $2,314,165! The previous record was $2.2 million in 2010.

Baseball great Henry Aaron was the main draw at the massive dinner where more than 1,100 people gathered to hear stories from his early days in baseball to his retirement passion for a foundation called “Chasing the Dream.” In a surprise move at the end of Hank’s message to those gathered, the Schmidt family announced a $250,000 gift to his foundation, which focuses on enabling deserving youths to continue their education. The announcement rendered him uncharacteristically speechless, and he called his wife, Billye, on stage to help share a message of thanks. It was a special moment for the couple, who have devoted their retirement years to “creating perpetual scholarships at a number of colleges and universities children they believe are most at risk of never having a chance to dream or not having anyone who wanted to help them get a start in life.”

The J. J. Keller Foundation announcement of extending the Basic Needs Giving Partnership drew two standing ovations from the crowd. Bill Schmidt introduced the Keller family by saying, “We saved the introduction of our biggest partner for last…because of their incredible commitment to this effort. Since 2008, the J. J. Keller Foundation has matched more than $5.1 million in grants awarded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs and before the end of 2014, they will add another $800,000. We are so grateful for their belief in this partnership, for their incredible generosity throughout the Fox Cities, and for the many ways they are working to fight poverty in Northeast Wisconsin. Please help me thank the J. J. Keller Foundation for this unprecedented level of commitment.”

Bob and Jim Keller then took to the stage to present an oversized check for $2.4 million to signal commitment by the Foundation to the Partnership through 2017. Bob said, “We are proud of our relationship with the Schmidt family and the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs. Together, we have changed the way things are done in the community, from a granting perspective. We don’t just talk about collaboration, we do it.

“We are grateful to the Schmidts for inviting us to join them in this effort that is near and dear to our hearts – serving basic human needs. We have a lot in common with the Schmidts from both a business perspective and a philanthropic focus. And when it comes to grantmaking, we both know the challenges are just too big to go it alone, and together we have greater impact and reach.” 

Many members of the Keller family were on hand to share in the announcement. In total, the family will have given $8.3 million to the Basic Needs Giving Partnership by 2017.