Boys & Girls Club President and CEO Michael Johnson is spending his days and his nights in a small van in Metcalfe’s parking lot at Hilldale Shopping Center until $475,000 total is raised for his Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. The community support has been great so far, he says, but he still knows that he has a ways to go to reach his goal.
“It’s hot out here!” Johnson tells Madison365. “I’m just trying to stay hydrated. We’re getting closer. But I know I’m going to be spending another night … there’s no way I’m going to be able to raise $60,000 yet today. Hopefully, I can be out of here by tomorrow, though.”
The trailer that Johnson sleeps in at night (and naps in) is about 6-feet long, or about the length of his body, by 4-feet wide. “It’s pretty tight in there,” he smiles. “I’m not a small guy.”
Like he does every year, he’s doing it for the kids.
“We’re trying to buy brand-new vans to pick up kids from 12 different schools. We’ve already raised enough money to buy 2½ of them,” he says. “A big portion of the money we are raising is also going towards or [Boys and Girls Club] summer camps. It’s a very large expense for us. It costs us $200,000 to run a summer camp for 500 kids. This allows us to hire people and provide programming for our young people. This is a fundraiser that we can’t play around with … we have to EXCEED our goals every year.”
UW basketball, football, and hockey players have come to visit during this fundraising effort along with a host of community leaders and politicians.
“I see [alderperson] Mark Clear getting out of the car and getting ready to volunteer to go in the dunk tank out here. We have [Madison Community Foundation President] Bob Sorge coming up in the tank,” Johnson says. “We have [Fitchburg Mayor] Steve Arnold. We have [Nehemiah’s] Anthony Cooper and Caliph Muab’El. We have broad support of people coming out to support the Boys and Girls Club.”
Every year, Johnson subjects his body to days of sweaty, uncomfortably hot weather and nights of loneliness in a fundraising build up to the annual Bike for Boys & Girls Club, a fun time for families that begins and ends at Edgewood High School. This Saturday’s event will be the 14th annual event.
“We are still looking for individual riders, but we already have 1,000 riders registered to participate in our bike ride,” Johnson says. “This has become the largest charity bike ride fundraiser in Dane County.
The event includes three distances: eight, 25, and 50 miles. Riders may sign up as individuals or join a team, with all ages and abilities welcome. Participants pay an entry fee and agree to raise pledges of a certain amount. A post-ride party at Edgewood is open to all riders, with food, beverages, and live music.
“This year, [former Green Bay Packer] Gilbert Brown is our honorary co-chair for the Bike for Boys and Girls Club event,” Johnson says. So we’re pretty excited about that.”