When the shock of the catastrophic fire at Rowleys Bay Resort began to settle, the ripple effects of the tragedy began to surface. That includes a frantic effort for the MS Society to re-organize one of their largest fundraisers of the year – the annual Door County Challenge Walk MS.
“For this event, planning usually starts in November, and now we have to start all over and do it in two weeks,” said event director Rob Multerer.
The walk takes place Sept. 22-24, and is usually a three-day event with 250 or more participants who walk 30 or 50 miles to raise awareness and funds for the MS Society. The event raises about $350,000 – $400,000 each year. For most of its 16 years it has been based out of Rowleys Bay Resort, a location participants have come to count on, Multerer said.
“Our participants love it there,” he said. “The service, the staff, the quality and care of what they do. Plus you finish on the bay and it looks beautiful. So it’s shocking to our folks.”
The flames were still burning Tuesday when owner Jewel Ouradnik called Multerer in tears.
“Here she is watching this tragedy and she takes the time to call us,” Multerer said. “That’s a family business and I just feel awful for her.”
Now Multerer and his team are calling every hotel and home they can to try and find rooms for 250 participants. He knows they won’t find one central location, which means the event could shift from a three-day event to one day, with a re-worked route. All options are on the table, Multerer said, and those with lodging available for participants can call him at 262.369.4428 or email [email protected].
“We may end up sleeping on a church floor, but we’re determined to pull this off,” he said. “This fundraising is critical for the 25,000 people in Wisconsin diagnosed with MS.”
Despite the hurdles, Multerer was emphatic that his team doesn’t plan to give up on the event or Door County.
“Just because this happened, we don’t want to leave,” Multerer said. “We want to be there in Door County. Now it’s just trying to make it happen. We’re going to need help with everything from finding lunch locations to vehicles to move people around.”