MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - The U.S. Venture Open raised a staggering $4.13 million during the annual golf outing in Northeast Wisconsin. Every dollar of the proceeds goes toward helping fight poverty in our area.
The appearance of Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps helped the 33rd annual fundraiser become a juggernaut. The day's goal was $4 million, and the open easily surpassed it.
Phelps, the holder of 23 gold medals, teed off Wednesday at the nation's largest one-day charitable event. Phelps played at North Shore Golf Club in Menasha.
The open also took place at Oneida Golf and Country Club; Thornberry Creek; Fox Valley Golf Club; Butte des Morts Country Club; and Wander Springs Golf Course.
“It’s truly incredible to see what you are doing to allow so many other people to have these amazing opportunities,” Phelps said. “It shows what dreams can push you to do. You see a lot of people in this (organization) that have very big dreams to change lives, and they’re doing it one day at a time.”
Ten years ago, Phelps established the Michael Phelps Foundation, which works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics to kid gets interested in swimming.
Action 2 News anchor BIll Jartz interviewed Phelps at the U.S. Venture Open Appreciation Dinner.
He reflected on 10 years of helping kids through his foundation.
"To teach kids the importance of water safety, to teach them the importance of healthy and active lifestyles, but also adding a component of mental health is so important in this world, especially with more and more people standing up and talking about it, that it's OK to not be OK," Phelps said.
"For me, I have a lot on my plate but it's stuff that I all enjoy and I love doing. It's a part of who I am and hopefully we can just share it with the rest of the world."
Phelps was a natural fit for the U.S. Venture Open team.
"He himself has talked really openly and positively about the challenges that he faced as a young person with mental health issues and this has become his passion," says Sarah Schmidt, U.S. Venture Open. "When we were able to connect with him about that, there's definitely a clear link and he was excited to be part of something that really speaks to his desire to help kids."
The U.S. Venture Open has now raised more than $42.45 million for charities over the past three decades.
“We are continually overwhelmed with the ongoing generosity of our partners and our community,” said U.S. Venture CEO and President John Schmidt. “This event was founded with the intent of neighbors helping neighbors, but our efforts have allowed us to fight the root causes of poverty throughout Northeast Wisconsin and beyond.”
All of the $4 million raised Wednesday goes toward grants for organizations that fight poverty on the local level.
"That $4 million, every penny of it, is going to go back into our community in grants," Schmidt says. "Grants that are going to have incredible impact in helping people get out of the cycle of poverty."
For the nearly 900 golfers who played in the open, it's about making a lasting impact on the community.
"I've been here 15 years and when I first got here, I was amazed at what this event does. And every year we get more ambassadors coming in, more companies coming in and I really think the sky is the limit for what we can do for this community," says Wilson Jones, CEO, Oshkosh Corporation.