Greater Bucky Open Brings the Bucky Spirit to Raise Funds for Children's Hospital
Greater Bucky Open Charity Concert
Sept. 14, 2018 | 7pm
Red Rock Saloon
322 West Johnson Street
For 22 years, The Greater Bucky Open (GBO) has brought former Bucky Badger mascots, UW alumni, celebrities and the community together each September for a benefit golf outing that has raised more than $300,000 for American Family Children’s Hospital. Scheduled for September 14, this year’s event also includes a benefit concert with Madison County, and all are welcome!
The Greater Bucky Open was founded by Derek Hildebrandt who was a Bucky mascot at UW-Madison from 1991-93. Derek moved to California after graduation, but returned to Madison each fall to attend a football game and to golf with his fellow Buckys. He began to see those informal reunions as an opportunity to bring all Bucky alumni together in a meaningful way.
"Back when I was Bucky, there wasn't a lot of fanfare or ceremony when you were done - you just turned your uniform in. Every Bucky does it for the love of it, but it felt lacking," says Derek. "I wanted to start something so that when Buckys graduated, they would be recognized.”
Derek established a 501(c)3 and launched The Greater Bucky Open to bring Bucky mascot alumni together for a weekend through a golf tournament on Friday at University Ridge and a Badger football game on Saturday. Celebrity guests like Barry Alvarez, Al Toon, Greg Gard, Tony Granato, Jim Leonard, Mark Johnson, Ron Dayne, Mark Tauscher and others have shown their support by participating in the event over the years.
Planning the event is a family affair. Derek recruited his dad, Joseph Hildebrandt, and mom, Jacquie Vilstrup, along with sisters Tiffany Wilke and Valerie Wulf to serve on the board, raise funds and coordinate the activities.
“Derek roped us all in, but we happily obliged,” jokes Valerie. “It’s been a great extension of our family. We were raised with a giving back mentality so to have that continue into our adulthood and with our own children has been very meaningful. And, Derek’s a great boss.”
The event gained momentum and at about four years in, the family thought it was time to ask, “What’s next?” That’s when the official partnership with what was then UW Children’s Hospital began.
“Bucky visits have always been a part of the culture,” says Derek. “Bucky is universally loved. You should see the joy that Bucky brings to patients and families. It’s such a welcomed distraction, it’s a magical moment when he steps into the room. It lightens up a serious situation.”
The Greater Bucky Open became an opportunity for alumni to honor the true spirit of what it means to be Bucky by raising money to help sick kids and their families. But fundraising for the hospital became very personal for the Hildebrandt family on October 10, 2006.
Derek’s nephew, Manny Wilke, was born with a birth defect called Bilateral Microtia (“little ears”) and Altresia (no open ear canals), and he was subsequently diagnosed at the Children’s Hospital with Tracheoesophageal Fistula, meaning his trachea and esophagus were connected putting him at risk for aspirating when he ate. That meant a life-saving surgery at 5 days old and an 8-day stay at the hospital with years of follow up appointments and additional surgeries in his future.
“Being on the patient family side was a whole new experience, and our family has such a deeper appreciation for the wonderful doctors, staff and the beautiful facility,” says Manny’s mom, Tiffany.
Manny has grown up to be a happy and healthy little boy who now has two “big boy” ears, and he’s a regular at the Greater Bucky Open.
Derek and his family are leaving a legacy through the Greater Bucky Open, and their support of the hospital’s patients and families is on-going. Donations from the event helped fund and name a playroom in the Hematology/Oncology Unit when the new American Family Children’s Hospital opened in 2007. Proceeds from the event continue to provide free meals and food for hospitalized families.
The weekend also includes a GBO Family Fun Fest which is held in the Children’s Hospital lobby. Patients and families can shoot some hoops, play cornhole, get Bucky stamp tattoos, pick out something special from the American Family Insurance sponsored toy drive, and of course, take photos with Bucky. Derek and his family invite all to become a part of The Greater Bucky Open. Though the golf event is sold out, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available. And the benefit concert with Madison County at Red Rock Saloon on Friday night promises to be a good time for a good cause.
Greater Bucky Open Charity Concert with Madison County
Friday, September 14, 2018 | 7pm (No cover between 7-9pm); 9:30pm: Music by Madison County
Red Rock Saloon, 322 West Johnson Street
Date Published: 09/11/2018