News: Neillsville - Community Comes Together Against Cancer (2022)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Riddle, Zilk, Elmhorst, Millard, Kren, Grap, Bontly

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/19/2022

Community Comes Together Against Cancer (2022)

From left to right, Mary “Dee-Dee” Riddle stands with her niece-in-law and one of the organizers for the event, Sarah Zilk, along with Dan Elmhorst, post commander for the American Legion Post 73, who offered a donation to the event and shook hands with Riddle’s husband, William.
Edward DuBois/Clark County Press Photos

By Edward DuBois

There are adages out there like “Third time’s the charm,” meant to express that good things come on the third try. But when it comes to cancer, another saying comes to mind: “Once is too many.”

Talk to anyone about Mary “DeeDee” Riddle and they would say two things about her before anything else: She’s the most selfless person they know and she is very private, unwilling to burden others with her troubles—such as her third bout with cancer.

Hence why it was one of her nephews and his wife, Brandon and Sarah Zilk of Chippewa Falls, along with Dianna and Shyann Millard, who organized the Oct. 9 “Knocking Cancer Down, Pin by Pin” fundraiser at Strike Time Restaurant and Lanes in Neillsville.

Riddle had already completed her radiology treatments and the fundraiser was to pay for alternative treatments in hopes of ridding her of the illness for good.

“We can’t do without her,” Riddle’s sister, Tammy-Ann Kren expressed.

The family spread awareness through free ads from Kevin Grap put on the local WCCN radio channel. Similar gestures of support came from far and near.

Family and friends arrived first, coming from all over the state. Riddle’s cousin, Lisa Bontly of the Janesville/Beloit area brought a couple other relatives up for the event.

“She’s been a caregiver to others,” Bontly said. “She’d never ask for help.”

Initially, Riddle did not want the fundraiser. Brandon Zilk and the family wanted to show her she did not have to go through this alone and give the community a chance to pay back all the goodwill and generosity she had shown them.

And it showed. Even people who had never met Riddle either donated or came to support her, joining with friends and family.

Inside Strike Times’ restaurant, across from the bar, were tables lining the wall full of buckets containing raffle prizes.

Local businesses donated the prizes, for the most part, coming from inside and outside Clark County, though individuals close to the family also put their own money in for the event. Sarah Zilk pointed out Midwest Supply, which donated almost $200 worth of goods. Another business donated something else: their time. Decades DJ and Karaoke was nestled off to the side, providing music free of charge to the event.

Prizes ranged from small bags of goodies to more expensive items, like televisions and a crossbow.
Handmade games like a Drunken Beer-Toss, tilted cups taped to a piece of paper on the wall, scores written around them, were scattered through the room and even into the bowling alley.

When Riddle arrived, her husband William close by, it was to welcoming arms before she had even made it through the door. Many were holding back tears.

She slowly made a round around the bar, catching up with people.

Around the same time, two members of the local American Legion, from Post 73 and the 73rd Auxiliary, came to donate to the cause as well on behalf of their organizations.

Susan Wells, president of the Neillsville American Legion Auxiliary Unit 73, presents Brandon Zilk with a donation of $100 at the Oct. 9 Mary “Dee-Dee” benefit.

Through donations and raffles, the fundraiser was able to hit the goal set to cover Riddle’s health insurance and fuel costs for treatment.

For a woman who has given so much to her community, the community was more than willing to give back.



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