LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEAU) – 2023 marks the 5th annual “Al’s Musky Challenge”; an event raising money to benefit organizations that support Coulee Region youths. First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel has more.

It was quite a successful summer out on the water for Al Louis, a La Crosse Rotarian who’s made it a tradition to hop in his boat to give back to his community. School District of La Crosse Superintendent, Aaron Engel, explains, “Today we had a rotary meeting and one of the rotary fundraisers is ‘Al’s Muskie Challenge’, where Al Lewis goes out and fishes for Muskie and gets donations in order to provide donations to organizations that serve kids in our community.”

This year netted 86 fish and $120,000. Louis has given half of the money to 3 local organizations. The School District of La Crosse received $15,000. Engel adds, “We received this grant in partnership with the Lacrosse Public Education Foundation. This money will go to ensure that students have access to field trips and don’t have to pay for that cost.”

Hope Restores is another organization who received $15,000. Black Student Leaders Vice President, Mia Simone Davis, says, “It will go towards our girls’ group in our entrepreneurship program that we’re starting. So, our girls’ group meets every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hope Restores. So, if there is a teen girl of color who needs any extra support, we always have that group open to them. We try to strive to do new experiences, giving the girls different opportunities that they haven’t had before and meeting new people. So, that’s what we’re going to do with some of the funds as well as with our entrepreneurship program.”

The Good Fight Community Center received $30,000. Assistant Director Amanda Worman Holmgaard says the money will help pay off bus debts, “We have a transportation program for our kids. This year we will give 882 rides. We pick up from three local schools and we drop kids off at home after our program every evening, Monday through Friday. So, this money is going to be used to pay off the loan on that bus. And any remaining money will go directly back into our programs that directly benefit the youth.”

The other half of the $120,000 will go to an endowment fund at the La Crosse Community Foundation to benefit youth programs for years to come. In La Crosse, Dashal Mentzel, First News at Nine.

Louis had a record-setting year on the waters of Lake Vermilion in Northern Minnesota, catching a new personal record of 86 muskies, beating last year’s record of 54.