Melapalooza, Pedal-palooza and puckin’ beautiful women

by Jack Henke

What do Melapalooza, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and OWHLs have in common? In this current climate, where the national pastime is now who can be the angriest and nastiest, there is hope for a good climate change in the local forecast.

Listen to the national news at your own risk. Nobody seems to be happy. Even the words “hope” and “potential” are getting bum raps. You can’t just hope – you have to do it, while potential is most-often used to describe some poor soul who did not live up to it.

Come down off the ledges, my fellow (gender-neutral) Ozaukeeans. The tallest skyscraper in the land of Oz is not high enough to hurt anybody, anyway. Besides, we have plenty of reasons to believe in the human race, especially right here under our pollenplugged runny noses.

Mel’s Charities’ annual Melapalooza was held this past weekend in Grafton, Mother Nature be damned. The event is all about softball, hard rock and big hearts.

It took all the heart that the diehard, dysfunctional family of Mel’s volunteers could muster to overcome Mother Nature, but they did it. They kept on going despite excessive heat and humidity warnings on Friday night, right up until the huge downpour washed out the games on Saturday afternoon. They regrouped, recharged their batteries and rallied to make Sunday a day to remember and this edition the most successful ’palooza in history.

Connect these inspirational dots: the Duhr family donated a car to be raffled off to raise funds for a Little League baseball field in Grafton. Mel took the donated car for a drive down automobile heaven lane, as generous people from Grafton Mobil, the Rieck brothers of Heinz 57 Auto Body and H & R Cleaning all donated their expertise and elbow grease to transform the car from merely incredible to even more incredibler.

The Grafton Little League stepped up and sold raffle tickets. On Sunday, three families were moved by the community’s generosity at once as one car became a gift from the Duhrs that a Grafton family won in the raffle to benefit a field of dreams and memories for the Malkowski family.

That one car became a shining symbol of what’s possible when a community comes together and ultimately brought in over $14,000 for the field that will be named in honor of the late Matt Malkowski. Fittingly, it’s a convertible

“Talk about potential and hope – Melapalooza and the Scenic Shore 150 keep growing every year, while the OWHLs stick it to cancer and raise money for many worthy causes.”

because when it comes to what good people can do together, the sky is the limit.

And that is just one part of the mega-Melapalooza impact – volunteers grilled and poured as softball was played, first pitchers were honored (including crowd favorites Ross Man Rintelman, Aaron Gresch and Andy Peterson) while both hopes and cups were raised.

At the same time, big-hearted bicyclists were doing their best to put the brakes on Leukemia and Lymphoma by weathering the heat and the storm in the Scenic Shore 150 Bike Tour – a two-day, 150-mile ride that is the largest locally organized and supported event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Each year, 1,300 riders raise over $1.4 million for one of the premier charity cycling events in the Midwest.

My friend Karl Wildner, whose gruff exterior belies a huge heart and a soul to match, is on a fundraising team, Team Chemo Sabe, that raised over $100,000 by itself ! Karl’s wife, Mary, did the whole ride, too, for the first time. There are a lot of good, saddle-sore souls walking a little funny but feeling good this week. And it’s not too late – you can still donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on the event’s website at and search on scenic shore 150.

Meanwhile my great friend Chris “Buttah” Skatchke and her fellow (gender neutral again) OWHLs – Ozaukee Women’s Hockey League – do lots of fundraisers, including a cancer walk for one of their own who was recently diagnosed. These puckin’ chicks are awesome. Even though Chris is a Chicago native, Ozaukee County is bettah with Buttah.

Talk about potential and hope – Melapalooza and the Scenic Shore 150 keep growing every year, while the OWHLs stick it to cancer and raise money for many worthy causes. These are just three examples in a community that boasts a lot more, but bragging is not in our collective DNA in these parts. Hope is.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, brother of all-time Packers great Ray Nitschke (not really, Friedrich tackled the mind while Ray tackled bodies) said, “Become who you are.” With all due respect to Freddy, I have to put an asterisk on this quote because it’s not great advice for everyone. Good people should become who they are. The real asterisks (every community has them, even Ozaukee … someone nice, please.

Despite Mother Nature’s fury, potential and hope are in full-bloom here in Ozaukee County.

Jack Henke is a Cedarburg resident, president/creative director of Henke & Associates, blogger and content creator. .