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From Tragedy to Triumph: A Social Media Win in Milwaukee, WI

Imagine with me for a moment…

After a series of storms, which made road travel nearly impossible, you choose to stay the night at a relative’s house to ensure your family’s safety. The next day you’re excited to return to your residence which was just made officially a home as you welcomed a new baby to the world just months earlier. Life is good for your young family, and the future is looking pretty bright. Morning now, the rain has passed and you start your journey home; only to realize as you drive through your neighborhood that something’s not right. Piles of wet carpet, garbage, and damaged furniture line the street leading up to your home.

Thoughts of happiness turn to quickly fear and uncertainty as it is clear the neighborhood was flooded during last nights storm. You pull into your drive way, sick, realizing you had no basement, and are reluctant to open the door to your family home for fear of facing reality. Eventually you muster the courage to enter your abode, yet what you find is surreal. The flood waters clearly breached the dwelling and reached depths of 2-3 ft throughout. Your home, now severely damaged and unlivable is completely destroyed.

The dream is gone.

Not knowing where to start, you make several calls to your insurance company, at least they can help.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse your agent delivers a below the belt punch and tells you the damage to your home is not covered. You don’t have flood insurance, says your agent, thanks for playing, we wish you well in your future endeavors.  Flood insurance?  Why would you ever consider flood coverage? As you live no where close to a lake or river.  Maybe there is hope? What about FEMA? Wrong! The damage was not substantial enough to qualify (at least for right now).  What would your young newly formed family do now? There is no way possible you could afford to rebuild your home without taking out significant loans, and becoming overrun by debt.  Luck, if there is such a thing has run out.

*Photo Credit: www.teecycle.org*

Unfortunately the above story was a sad reality for the Cigelske’s, a Milwaukee area family, during the #BrewCityFlood in July 2010. Not knowing what to do or which way to turn, Tim Cigelske shared his story in a touching blog post via Twitter, which prompted many on the tightly woven online community to ask how they could help.  Tim (@teecycletim) is no stranger to social media heading up online communications for Marquette University, and founder of Teecycle.org where his company sells reclaimed t-shirts and donates a portion of the proceeds to help save urban rivers and trails in Milwaukee.  Naturally he wanted to share his experience with his connections online. What was about to ensue over the next month went beyond his family’s wildest dreams, and brought an online community closer together in an effort to help rebuild the Cigelske family home and help #saveteecycle.

The link to Tim’s initial blog post quickly spread throughout Wisconsin and beyond via Twitter, where several people, strangers really, were quick to ask how they could help.  A group in Indiana even sent the Cigelske’s an ample supply of baby supplies to help alleviate at least once necessity at the top of the young family’s mind.  Soon after the story was circulated two members of the Milwaukee area Twitter community truly came to the forefront in an effort to help this family get back on their feet.  Enter complete strangers, Sue Spaight (@suespaight) and Katie Klein-Murphy (@bootyp) and the birth of www.saveteecycle.org.

*Photo Credit: Troy Freund – Midwest Photo*

Together these two women realized a need to step up, and took immediate action to make things right for this family.  At first Sue and Katie started a website explaining the Cigelske’s story along with a link to accept donations to aide in the rebuilding of their home.  The website generated significant traffic and received an outpouring of support, including donations both personal and corporate. What happened next took me by surprise, as it’s not to often you see complete strangers make it their mission to help each other. The website served as a catalyst for greatness, creating even more interest in helping to get the Cigelske family back home.

With more awareness came an increase in people “tweeting” about the cause. This in turn inspired several businesses and individuals to partner with Sue, Katie, and www.saveteecycle.org to rebuild the Cigelske’s home. In a generous donation the Cigelske family received all new windows for their home, from Renewal by Andersen.  Another one of the key players in rehabilitating the Cigelske home was William Ryan Homes represented by Craig Vermeulen (@WilliamRyanRE).  As an avid member of the local Twitter community Craig knew he needed to do what he could to help this family in need.

Craig leveraged his connection to William Ryan Homes, and was able to donate all of the labor, and purchase supplies at contractor prices, in an effort to rebuild the Cigelske’s home. Craig and his team of contractors worked on this project before and after hours for several weeks, rehabilitating the destroyed home to it’s original glory. When I asked Craig why he worked so hard to help the Cigelske’s his answer spoke to his remarkable character. “I helped because I could…it was the right thing to do.  If my family was in a similar position, I know someone would do the same for us.”

Additional steps were taken by Sue and Katie in an effort to make things whole again for the Cigelske’s.  They planned a benefit on September 18, 2010 for the family to raise additional funds to ensure the costs to rebuild the home were covered.  With hard work these amazing women secured some solid partnerships ensuring the benefit would be a success.  Sprecher Brewery graciously offered to donate the venue, creating a perfect atmosphere for the benefit. Delicious food was donated for the event by COA (@GetCOA) in Milwaukee, who also donated a portion of their restaurant sales to the #saveteecycle fund. COA specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine, so needless to say this stuff was tasty, and was a big hit among guests at the event.  Sue and Katie also secured an extensive array of silent auction, and raffle items from various individuals and businesses throughout the community.  A final tally of supporters for the #Saveteecycle event puts attendance north of 200 people.  I truly feel passionately that because of Sue Spaight’s and Katie Klein-Murphy’s unselfishness and stewardship, a deserving family was saved from tragedy. Their courage to stand up, take charge, and make things happen for the Cigelske’s (at the time total strangers), is an inspiration and a triumph for Milwaukee’s social media scene.

The #SaveTeecycle benefit accomplished several things looking back now. First and foremost, the Cigelske’s can now move home!  Craig Vermeulen and his team at William Ryan Homes, finished the rehabilitation and were able to turn the keys over to a family that hasn’t been home in months. The big reveal was viewed at the benefit live, via video from Dan Wilde (@dwilde), to the surprise of all in attendance (watch the reveal here) (Fantastic work with the video Dan).  With the generosity of the community through various ways of donating, all of the costs of the rehab were covered. Additional funds collected will go to help neighboring families that also suffered loss due to the <a hr

Babies, Bikes, & Beer. Does It Get Any Better?

What a great weekend! Well, at least for my family it was, as we were lucky enough to avoid most of the damage from the #brewcityflood on Thursday. I say “most” of the damage because we again had some issues with the skylight in our kitchen.  It seems as if whenever we get apocalyptic rain storms it leaks in the corners.  Never fun, seeing as it softens up the drywall around the skylight, which will yet a gain need to be redone.  One day I’ll get around to replacing the darn thing but not really wanting to spend the money to do so.  Despite the minor damage we encountered, my thoughts and heart go out to all of those who sustained significant losses.

Anyways back to the real reason I wanted to write this post.   Saturday I had a great ride from Waukesha into Wales and back.  It was a great hour and a half ride, solid pace, and I felt really good the entire time! At first I thought it was going to rain, but the clouds broke about thirty minutes in and made way for sunny blue skies. Could not have asked for better riding weather.

Fast forward to later Saturday afternoon… Heather and I  (baby Lillian in tow) went into Milwaukee to watch the Downer Classic Pro 1/2 criterium.  We always look forward to this race as the crowds are fun, and the racing is intense. This year was our first year attending as parents, and we did not know how Lillian would do in the heat and with all those people around.  Good news for us, as the weather was much cooler downtown and the crowds were very light. I cannot ever remember attendance being so poor for this event. Perhaps many were dealing with damage from flooding.  The race course was also impacted from the rain, as several pot holes and dips in the road formed.  The race was even restarted a few times due to significant crashes.

As attendance was so low this year, we were actually able to grab a table at Cafe Hollander on Downer. This was awesome, seeing as in years past you needed a reservation a day ahead of time for an outdoor table on race day. Another win for us!  Right from the table we were able to enjoy the entire race, eat a great meal, and enjoy some delicious beer. I enjoyed a few New Belgium Fat Tires (a personal favorite), and was able to sample a beer from Unibroue Brewery called Trois Pistoles.  A really heavy beer but extremely tasty, I will definitely order one next time.  Sun almost set, dinner through, beers drank, race over, it was time for us to journey home.  Babies first Downer Classic Criterium was a success!

Sunday morning I was able to enjoy another great ride.  I embarked on one of my infamous rides, Le Tour De Delafield (see ride page above for route details).  Let’s just say I had the legs this morning, as I felt great!  You could not ask for a more perfect day to ride.  A HUGE thank you to my wife for letting me escape from daddy duty the last two days so I could enjoy some time on the bike.  This afternoon I was able to return the favor and watch the baby for a bit so she could get out and run with our dogs for an hour or so.  She is looking forward to getting back into running and cycling after a long hiatus (le pregnancy).

Sunday evening was also enjoyable, as we headed out to Waukesha County Fair.  First festival with baby Lillian, glad it was a small one.  She actually slept the whole time in the baby bjorn. Bonding time for daddy, as I got to carry her the whole time. We made a few laps of the grounds, enjoyed some traditional fair foods, people watched a bit, and headed home.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend in the saddle and with the family. I am already looking forward to the next one!

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