Out of darkness comes light

Thanks to your support, since 1999, Mel’s Charities has provided over $550,000 in legacy grants and scholarships. The following are just a few of the lives we will never forget.


Shelby Austin: donation to the Cedarburg Art Museum for their Student Art Matters program. Shelby who had a love for art, lost her life at age 17 in an automobile accident in 2001.

TJ Beck and Brian Rintelman: Cedarburg High School basketball team members who in 2006 lost their lives along with Brian’s father, Don in an automobile accident.

Dustin Brede: Port Washington High School. Sergeant First Class Brede died in a motorcycle accident in 2017, just days after celebrating his official retirement from the US Army. He was 42 years old.

Dr. Andy Brooks: Homestead High School.  Andy was a beloved youth coach of football, hockey, and lacrosse who at age 42, passed away from cancer in 2015.

Tyler Buczek: Port Washington High School. Tyler was a gifted student and athlete,  who lost his life swimming with friends, in Lake Michigan in 2012.  Tyler was 15 years old.

Craig Carlson:  Graduate of Grafton High School, gifted soccer player past away in 2012 due to a pulmonary embolism.

Stephen Castner: Cedarburg High School. Corporal Castner, at the age of 27, was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.

Nicole Doedens Memorial Fund: in honor/memory of Niki. Niki, at the age of  17, lost her life in an automobile accident in 2004. Niki was a gifted, talent student and athlete who impacted countless lives on and off the court.

Josh Davis-Joiner: Grafton High School. In 2017, Josh lost his life playing the game he loved, basketball. Josh was 17 years old.

Jeff and Kate Gruetzmacher: Grafton High School. In 2017 Jeff, age 69, and his daughter Kate, age 42, lost their lives to cancer.

Chris Kalies:  Grafton High School. An award-winning automotive technician at GHS, Chris lost his life in a snowmobile accident in January 1998.Chris was 19 years old.

Rick King: Grafton High School. Coach King passed away at 42 from a heart attack. He was a beloved Grafton Gladiators youth football coach.

Matt Kobiske: In 2005, Matt, a Grafton High School graduate, lost his life to a heroin overdose. He was 21 years old. Annually, Mel’s Charities brings Chris Herren and his powerful message to area High Schools in honor/memory of Matt.

Ken Kuemmerlein:  “Be Like Ken” Scholarship at Cedarburg High School. In 2020, at the age of 50, Ken lost his life to Covid-19 complications. Ken was a CHS graduate and long-time Special Olympics coach.

Matt Malkowksi:  Grafton Little League to continue improvements on Mattie’s Field of Dreams. Matt, in 2010, at the age of 18, lost his life in an automobile accident.

Ozaukee County Special Olympics: donation was made in honor and memory of these special athletes, Diego Effio and Derek Taft

Ryan Refinski:  donations have been made to Children’s Hospital, Dominican High School and Cedarburg High School.  Ryan was a senior at Cedarburg high school and excelled at the game he loved playing, soccer.  Ryan was 18 years old.

Austin Reichers and Devin Krumbiegel: Cedarburg High School. In 2018, these good friends lost their lives in an automobile accident. They were both 21 years old.

Grant Schoen: past donations to Cedarburg Mercs Youth Baseball League in honor of Grant, who, in 2013, at ten years old, lost his life to sudden cardiac arrest.  His legacy will burn bright through providing defibrillators where needed in the community.

Mel’s Village

Tim Nenning: Grafton resident, who in 2021, passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Tim was 59 years old.

Stuart Mitkey: Cedarburg native, who in 2012, while attending the Naval Officer Candidate School passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest. Stu was 25 years old.

Steve Purpora: Grafton resident, who in 2019, passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest.  Steve was 54 years old.

Jan Schanen: Grafton native, who in 2016, at the age of 60, lost her life to cancer.