Comedy basketball raises funds
By Holly Neumann
The Harlem Ambassadors took on the Manawa Freedom Flyers Oct. 11 at Little Wolf High School to raise funds for the Manawa Area Veterans Freedom Park.
“We wanted to do something that was a community event,” said Jamie Lane, who helped organize the basketball game. “Our military has sacrificed so much, it’s only right to honor them.”
More than 400 people came out to support the cause, including Lexi Hedtke and Brady Zemple.
“This was amazing for everyone,” Hedtke said. “I had so much fun.”
“I liked their dancing,” Zemple said. “And the way they dunk, wow.”
Even the members of the Manawa Freedom Flyers seemed to have a good time.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tammy Arndt said. “I am glad I could be a part of this.”
“I hope everyone understands how much fun it can be to do for something of such a great cause,” Michael Wendlandt said. “It is nice to see that there are still great people willing to give back to their community despite all the controversy in our country.”
Lincoln O’Brien admitted he was surprised by the speed of the game.
“I definitely was not prepared for it, but I was glad I could represent our community,” he said. “It was nice to see everyone come together for this.”
O’Brien’s daughters, Piper, 7, and Scout, 4, enjoyed the evening as well.
“I was so cool seeing them dunk the ball,” Piper said.
“I thought it was funny seeing everyone do the Chicken Dance,” Scout added.
The two girls giggled as the recall their father dancing.
“I did not even know he could dance,” Piper said.
“He looked pretty fun,” Scout said.
A community effort made the game possible, according to Lane.
“The businesses, the people, everyone that donated to make this happen was amazing,” she said. “Manawa is a great place.”
The Manawa Area Veterans Freedom Park will be located at the former beach on Lake Manawa and feature monuments recognizing each branch of the service; tribute walls featuring past and present servicemen; flags; and a bronze eagle with a 4-foot wingspan. A bridge will take visitors to the second part of the park, which will include fishing piers, boat docks, playgrounds, shelter house, a pavilion and splash pad.
“The park is important to me because of the 9/11 attacks,” said John Smith, who chairs the committee overseeing the project. “When my daughter Ashlee (Saalfeld) enlisted, there was a renewed sense of pride in America and the armed service.”
Saalfeld, who was in the audience during the Harlem Ambassadors performance, believes she has seen a change in the Manawa community since the last time she was home.
“I think the community has done a complete 180,” she said. “The downtown looks awesome, more stores are opening up and more people are staying. It is great to see.”
Currently serving in the U.S. Army, Saalfeld is excited about the park.
“I am super-stoked about the park,” she said. “It’s a nice way to show thanks to people that served and show the appreciation that they deserve.”
Saalfeld’s name will included on the tribute walls.
“I am honored that my name will be on there,” she said. “I am planning on making a career of this and that gives me that much more incentive to make my community proud.”
About $90,000 of the park’s projected cost of $440,000 has been raised. Anyone wishing to donate to the cause can mail donations to MAVFP, P.O. Box 247, Manawa, WI 54949.