Bong Center meets its match plus

It was a timed, tuned and tenaciously championed capitol campaign with the kind of colorful, creative challenges everyone who has ever raised money for a cause dreams of having.

Bong Center
Tom Michela, left, and Alex Wizbicki, volunteers at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, look over a brand new display of World War II patches collected at the Harbor Tavern in the Allouez neighborhood of Superior. The center raised more than its goal during a recent capital campaign. (Jed Carlson/

It was a timed, tuned and tenaciously championed capitol campaign with the kind of colorful, creative challenges everyone who has ever raised money for a cause dreams of having.

And, it had all the dynamics, drama and determination one would expect from the dangling of a six-digit, dollar-for-dollar carrot - to an over the top goal-matching, momentum-building money challenge which sent goal projections snowballing into reality.

There was also a colossal cast of community contributors, a progressive board of directors tapping contacts and best of all - a determined corporate and community leader who had a decorated, retired colonel who had served in Vietnam as a co-chair teaming up to drive the message home.

The "$100,000 in 100 Days" grassroots campaign to raise awareness and dollars for the new mission of the Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center along Superior's waterfront raised more than $225,000 before it ended last week, according to Superiorite Judy Weber, chief executive officer of Inter City Oil Company.

Chairpersons John Bremer and Weber, agree finishing well ahead of the museum's goal was made possible because of challenges that came in the way of "huge pluses."


"When you have community leaders and business people come forward to challenge others to match dollars that they commit - it's a win-win for everyone," Weber said.

"From that moment on a dollar is doubled and donations take on a whole new meaning, and every call, every envelope adds up to a winning amount," she added.

Weber was referring to the initial "Lundberg Family Challenge" that Bob, a longtime area businessman and WWII veteran, made with his sons Scott and Terry and their respective families and community-focused businesses back in the early weeks of November.

That $100,000 pledge was huge as were the dollar amounts and matches that came from RJS & Affiliated Companies' Todd Johnson and the seed monies of Rod Campbell of Campbell Lumber, the late Cal Miller's family and others.

"From there, other business leaders and community contributors worked diligently and embraced the cause to make certain we didn't leave any money on the table. As a result, we were able to capitalize on what turned out to be $112,500 in matching dollars," Bremer said.

Weber said the names of all contributors have been posted on the Bong website at .

"We had many families giving what they could and their donations seriously mattered as much as the next," Weber said. Their stories and reasons for giving ranged from a grandson who wanted to pay tribute to his grandfather who served during World War II, to another who had a parent who served in Korea, to one who has a daughter serving in the Guards today, she said.

Terry Lundberg said he couldn't be more pleased the community met his match.


"Judy and John deserve a lot of credit. They advocate teamwork and community giving and like so many others obviously really care about our region, veterans and this center and it showed," Lundberg said. He also lauded the work of the many volunteers of the Bong.

There were more than 125 donations made in the campaign with monies generated to be used to expand educational interactive exhibits and display artifacts, which already number in the thousands as well as to improve archiving and tribute walls and memorials.

Over 20,000 veterans are represented in the museum that draws more than 12,000 visitors annually. It is named for Poplar's own Ace of Aces, a fighter pilot from Northern Wisconsin who was inspired to fly after seeing his first mail plane buzz his backyard en route to the summer White House in Superior by former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.

Many of Maj. Richard I. Bong's family descendants, including his sisters Joyce Erickson and Gerry Fechtelkotter, were active in this campaign.

For information about the center, call Bob Fuhrman, director, at (715) 392-7151.

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