Comedy benefit aids victims of abuse
By: By Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Domestic abuse is no laughing matter. But Wednesday, a roomful of chuckles could help the victims of abuse.
Local comedians Ted Schick, Eric Kessler and Michael Brew will join America’s Funniest Mom, Darlene Westgor, at the Shack to benefit the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA). They will perform two shows – one at 6:30 p.m. and another at 8:30 p.m.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Charles LaGesse, Superior assistant police chief and member of the CASDA board of directors. “They’re thinking a little outside the box.”
CASDA board member Geof Wendorf approached Shack owner Doug Dalager about hosting the benefit after a similar fundraiser for the American Red Cross took place this spring.
“In these tough economic times, we find the need for our services is growing almost daily,” Wendorf said. At the same time, donations are down due to the economy.
“We need to be creative,” Wendorf said. “We need to give something back, and comedy is a great way to do it.”
Not only will the audience be supporting a great cause, they’ll get more than a few laughs. Westgor was voted America’s Funniest Mom by Nick @ Nite. She uses her life experience as a single mother raising teens in a suburb of Minneapolis, to keep the chuckles coming.
“She is very funny,” Dalager said.
“Come in ready to laugh,” Schick said.
Both he and Kessler have been on the Shack stage before. Schick, an executive for Cirrus Design by day, is fast on his feet and engaging.
“Of all the local comics we get in here, he is probably the guy with the best stage presence,” Dalager said.
Schick got his start while serving in the U.S. Navy and honed his comedy as a high school teacher. Now he uses it in his current job during presentations and bounces jokes off co-workers.
The Duluth man’s observational humor encompasses local events like the visiting Hells Angels and more personal topics like a recent 30-year class reunion. Even Dalager’s decision to ban smoking at the Shack presents comic opportunities.
Schick was happy to donate his time for CASDA.
“I believe in the cause,” he said. “I was happy to help.”
Domestic abuse takes place on a daily basis in Douglas County, with about 400 domestic abuse incidents reported a year. That number represents a small percentage of what’s happening, said Erika Leif, CASDA’s assistant director.
“The majority of cases don’t get reported,” she said.
The organization, which covers Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland counties, provides critical services for victims of abuse such as shelter, legal help, advocacy, support groups, education and a 24-hour helpline.
“They provide services that aren’t available through any other source in the community,” LaGesse said.
“We work to empower victims to help them live safely and abuse-free,” Leif said.
Last year alone, the center fielded more than 2,000 calls on the helpline. Callers can choose to remain anonymous, Lief said, but it is a first step in reaching out for help. The volunteers and staff who answer the line can provide general information, discuss safety plans and refer callers to resources in their area. To reach the helpline call (715) 392-3136 or the toll free number, 1-800-649-2921.
The emergency shelter program provided a safe haven for 119 women and 96 children in 2008.
“Pretty consistently we’re full,” Leif said. In the past two years, she said, the organization has had to turn away more than 300 women and children requesting shelter because of space limitations.
The community can help by getting involved. Leif said people can hand CASDA’s number to a friend in need, report violent incidents to police or take part in a fundraiser.
Every year, CASDA holds two fundraisers – a walk/run in the fall and a “Dine Out to End Abuse” event. This year, instead of the dine out event, they chose to hold a comedy night.
“It’s something different,” Leif said. “People like to laugh; it’s a good healing tool.”
If you can’t attend the Wednesday night show but still want to help, she suggested buying tickets and gifting them. People can also donate funds directly to CASDA.
Tickets are $10 each and can be reserved by calling The Shack at (715) 392-3463, CASDA at (715) 392-3136 or Wendorf at (715) 343-4666.