LA CROSSE, Wisc. (WIProud) – There is so much to be proud of living in the badger state. In our new segment WI Proud we aim to highlight some of those reasons. A La Crosse man has been raising money through his love of fishing since 2019, but this year’s efforts hold a special meaning. Alex Loroff tells us how the fundraiser is honoring the life of a La Crosse community member.

A La Crosse Rotarian is using his passion for fishing to benefit nonprofits in the Coulee region. Al Louis has been fishing at Minnesota’s Lake Vermilion for the past nine years, but some inspiration from a friend lead Louis to use his recreation for a good cause.

Louis said, “So I was up here fishing and I call up my friend, mentor, good friend David Amborn. I said, I love to fish – I’m having a great time – how could we raise some money for a nonprofit, you got any ideas? He goes let me think about that. He got back to me a day or two later and he said I’ve got it, we’re going to call it Al’s Musky Challenge and you’re going to do the fishing and I’m going to hit up the local Rotarians and we’re going to raise some money.”

Al’s Musky Challenge started in 2019, with just over $4,000 donated. Last year, that number ballooned to more than $45,000, leading Louis to increase this year’s goal to $100,000.

Money from this year’s challenge will go to the Coulee Recovery Center, La Crosse Children’s Museum, the La Crosse Community Theater, and Children’s Miracle Network for Gundersen.

Rotary Club President Sarah Arendt-Beyer says the pandemic has made donations even more crucial for those groups.

“The last year has been hard on so many nonprofit organizations and we’re honored to be able to help support their missions through this fun, creative, unique fundraising challenge,” said Arendt-Beyer.

The fundraiser has added significance this year as well, as it’s dedicated to the memory of David Amborn. The man who helped come up with Al’s Musky Challenge passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Louis believes part of the success of this year’s event is due to Amborn’s impact in the community.

“Just a solid guy. I mean there was never ‘no,’ it was always about everybody in the community ahead of him, he put everybody else ahead of him and it was always for the kids,” said Louis. “Somebody in our group said when David Amborn passed, a big tree fell that day.”

In Amborn’s memory, more than $80,000 has been raised so far as Louis finishes up his final week of fishing. He’s grateful for the support the Musky Challenge has received this year, no matter how big or small the donations may be. “They believe in us and they’re having fun and we post some fun stuff, and the money all goes to great things,” said Louis. “I just thank everybody from that person that gave $5 and all the way up because every donation to me means the same. People are taking their hard earned money, putting it towards great causes.”

Louis says donations will still be accepted after he’s finished at Lake Vermilion, and checks are expected to be presented to the beneficiaries in October.

For WI Proud, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

This year’s nonprofits were chosen due to their support over the years from David Amborn. Donation information can be found on the La Crosse Rotary Club’s website.