Hundreds turn out for 27th annual Tiny Tim Gala

Members of the La Crosse community are spending the night reaching out to the community just in time for the holidays.

Saturday more than 100 people packed into the Cargill Room at the Waterfront Restaurant in downtown La Crosse for the 27th annual Tiny Tim Gala sponsored by the Franciscan Healthcare Auxiliary.

The fundraising event includes a live and silent auction to raise money for four health-related organizations in the area.

Organizers said taking time to help those in need is a big part of what makes a community succeed.

“There’s so many family stories, small stories and small events, and there’s larger things that need so much funding. Sometimes we’re so into being compassionate and helping, and that’s what make it all work really is that there are compassionate people who can help,” said Mariel Carlisle, chairperson of the Tiny Tim Gala.

The focus for several of the recipients this year is children. Some said the funds from the event will greatly help as the need for these types of services continue to grow.

Tucked away near the back of the Boys and Girls Club is one of the most popular rooms for teens.


“It’s a great place for teens to hang out and do their homework,” said Mike Desmond, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse.

Desmond said this teen center is becoming a little too small for the club’s growing membership.

While the increase is great news, Desmond said it can be a challenge on a tight budget.

“We go a little deeper in the hole, and again, we’re solely dependent on the generosity of the community,” said Desmond.

This is the second year in a row the club will receive help from the Tiny Tim Gala.

Some of the money will help offset membership costs. Desmond hopes the other part will one day help fund a new teen center complete with a fine arts program.

“We have a lot of great programs,” said Desmond. “We have a regular art program, a great athletic program, but my dream is to someday create a really neat program for those kids who don’t have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument or to get on stage or to sing or to dance.”

“It’s going to go a long, long way in providing a very needed item for kids,” said Julie Nelson of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army in La Crosse is also one of this year’s recipients.

As the winter months approach, The Salvation Army is expecting to see more families and children at the shelter.

Funds from the event will help buy milk – an item rarely donated.

“Unfortunately in our society, it’s much cheaper to feed children soda pop, but milk is so much better for them,” said Nelson. “So at least when they’re here, if we can offer them that healthy choice and really help them to build strong bones, strong bodies, that kind of thing, then it’s just better all the way around.”

With so many deserving organizations in the area, both are humbled to receive help this year.

“They believe in our mission, and they’ve decided to invest in that and we think that’s really neat,” said Desmond.

The La Crosse County Health Department is also one of this year’s recipients. The funds will help support its Safe Sleep program, and provide cribs for kids and education to pregnant women and families.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of La Crosse County will also benefit from this year’s gala.

The program plans to use its share of the funds to purchase educational materials for families who have a loved one with mental illness.

In the last 27 years, the event has raised more than $950,000 for local charities.

The final total for this year’s fundraiser will be available in about a week.