Mel’s Charities added Belgium Summer Nights Live to its list of annual events when it hosts the event’s Luxembourg Beer & Wine Garden and serves up its famous Pork Sandwiches as well as burgers, brats and hot dogs in the concession stand. Mel’s will also have its friend Ross at the event selling Ross’ Crosses for $10- small wooden crosses made with clothes pins by Ross and some of Mel’s other friends with unique abilities.
This is the first time Mel’s Charities will participate in Belgium’s Summer Nights LIVE series, but Mel’s Charities is not new- it celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The story of its origins goes back to 1999, when Tom Stanton and his wife, Nancy, decided to throw a party at Cedars III, a bowling alley in Cedarburg. They invited about 50 friends for a pig roast during the Packers vs. Browns football game.
About halfway through the party, Tom, also affectionately known as Mel, decided it would be nice to honor the memory of his friend’s sister who had just passed away. She had been a single mom to a daughter named Becky, who has special needs. Stanton went out to his car, where he found a couple mini autographed Packers football helmets to raffle off. He proceeded to raise $350 from the helmets, which he then donated to Special Olympics.
It was so special being able to impact one person’s life, that Stanton was motivated to see who else might be helped by his pig roast party, that was not only a great time, but made a positive difference in the community. He has hosted “Mel’s Pig Roast” at Cedars III the last Sunday of September every year since, and has been thrilled to watch Mel’s Charities take off and flourish throughout Ozaukee County under the tagline, “Great Times for Great Causes.”
Mel’s Charities now puts on six annual signature events- including a golf outing, Chinooks game, bowling tournament, run/walk, a “Melapalooza” softball and music event, and of course, the pig roast. In addition, they participate in a variety of existing events, including Belgium Summer Nights Live. “All these things just sorta happened,” Stanton chuckles.
The $350 he brought in the first year pales in comparison to the $168,000 Mel’s Charities raised last year, but, he points out, “we don’t obsess about money.” He continues, “It really is a true testament. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously, and with a huge dose of God’s grace.”
100% of the proceeds raised by Mel’s Charities stays in Ozaukee County and is distributed three different ways: The first is special needs- Mel’s now funds half the cost of Ozaukee County’s Special Olympics. It also supports several Memorial scholarships in the area. “Those are the hardest,” says Stanton. Ross’ Crosses will be sold at the May 31st Summer Nights Live for $10 each.
The third beneficiary bucket is for human services. Mel’s has an office at Ozaukee’s Family Enrichment Center and donates part of the proceeds to causes such as food pantries, the opioid drug issue, mental health, special needs and the elderly.
This charity, which started on a whim more than 20 years ago, has now brought more than a million dollars back to Ozaukee County, and, as Stanton promises, “we’re just getting started.”
So why participate in Belgium’s Summer Nights Live? Stanton explains, “We always said we needed to do more in Northern Ozaukee County.”
Mel’s recently donated to Belgium’s Melvin Wester Post #412 American Legion’s wheel chair bowling event that benefitted a camp for veteran’s families, but wanted to do more.
"Belgium Summer Nights LIVE fits perfectly with our brand,” says Stanton. "It’s community, it’s fun. We’re looking forward to it. Hopefully this is the start of a long-term relationship.”
The evening’s features also include live music by the String Along String Band, a night market, corn hole, and a bounce house, kick ball, and glitter tattoos for the kids. There is no admission fee.