Players reflect on all-star game, playing for a cause
Three area football players were nominated by their coaches and selected to play in the 2014 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game in Oshkosh on July 19.
To participate, players and coaches are required to raise a minimum of $750 for the Wisconsin Children's Hospital. This year, teams raised a total of $417,421.47.
Former Durand football players Garrett Auth and Jacob Biesterveld, as well as former Pepin-Alma football player Charlie Raethke, participated in this year's team. All three played on the North team.
The players found out they were selected late in 2013.
"Coach Olson asked me early in the season if I wanted to be nominated," Raethke said. "I had to get a letter of recommendation, and send a highlight film after the season."
Players are selected by coaches, and selections are based on the best fit for the team and plan for the all-star game.
Biesterveld said the North team met in Stevens Point for a fundraising meeting, and learned about how to create their individual fundraising websites.
"My personal goal was to raise $3,500, but I raised $5,360," he said.
Raethke raised $1,220, and Auth raised $3,500. Raethke said the North team had the top overall fundraiser, who raised $12,500. He also said the total raised was a new record. Fundraising began March 9.
The players left on Sunday, July 13, to get to registration.
"The entire experience was incredible," Raethke said. "It was really well-planned and a ton of fun to be a part of."
Players bring home-team stickers with them, and trade with other teammates to fill their helmets.
"It was a great week," Biesterveld said. "I met a lot of incredible guys."
The players attended practice in the morning and evening, but had time to bond during the day and at night.
"We would watch TV in the lobby on our floor, play video games with each other, or go out to eat somewhere," Biesterveld said. "Wednesday we went to a movie, then went swimming at the UW-Oshkosh pool. It was a lot of fun."
"We stayed in the dorms at UW-Oshkosh as a team," Auth said. "We talked about our high school careers, or where we were going to college. By the end of the week, we were all well-acquainted with each other and knew everyone very well."
Raethke said it was quite the bonding experience, getting to know 46 guys.
"You get to know everyone pretty well pretty quick," he said. "The first night of conditioning we just pushed each other and bonded. Practice through the week was all high-contact, and we learned the playbook. We had to be comfortable working together with different people."
Raethke said a couple nights, the players had a 28-man Playstation tournament.
"We had a chance to watch the MLB all-star game together, and the homerun derby," he said. "It was a lot of talking and getting to know each other."
On Thursday, the players had the opportunity to meet children from the hospital.
"Unfortunately our team didn't get to hang out with the kids," Raethke said. "Personally, I was a little disappointed, but the other players said it was a great experience. It gave the kids a chance for some normalcy. They go through a lot."
"Three families came and told us the story of their son or daughter who received treatment at the hospital, and we learned a little about them," Biesterveld said.
On Friday night, the players attended a recognition banquet.
"All of us players got to sit with our parents and listened to a speech from a Children's Hospital representative," Biesterveld said. "Our head coach and a player representative gave a speach, talking about the week and what they personally felt about it."
"All four teams came together at the banquet, and we honored a family from the hospital," Raethke said. "Their little girl is now in remission, which is very cool."
"The banquet was awesome," Auth said. "It was the first time in a week we were able to see our families. It was nice to have them be a part of the week with us."
This fall, Raethke is attending UW-La Crosse for sports management. He has the opportunity to continue his football career, but he has yet to decide if he will pursue it.
"I have some internship opportunities that would make it difficult to give football my full attention," he said.
Biesterveld will be attending UW-Eau Claire, and is continuing his football career.
Auth is attending UW-Madison for engineering, and said sadly, he will not be continuing his football career.
Overall, Auth described the experience as the best week of his life so far.
"By the end of the week I feel like everyone on the team was good friends," he said. "I met several players who are also attending UW-Madison in the fall."
Auth also said the all-star game experience made him realize how good his life is.
"I was able to be a great athlete in my high school career, and accomplished many great feats," he said. "By seeing other children [from the hospital] and realizing that they won't be able to do the things I did, it made me appreciate everything I've accomplished."
Auth said he encourages future athletes to be whatever they want.
"Don't stop until you reach every single goal you set," he said.
Biesterveld said he met a lot of cool guys, and created a lot of friends he plans to stay in touch with during college.
"It was a great experience, and it was amazing that we raised over $417,000 for the hospital," he said.
Raethke said the experience was incredible.
"You really do become family with the team, and it's cool to bond so quickly," he said. "The game experience won't be one I'll forget, from being introduced to the game ball being flown in by parachuters. It was an electric atmosphere, and it was quite an honor to be a part of it."