Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF kicks off 2020 campaign with goal for Kasey's Fund and the new Race the Hoan

David Schuyler | March 4, 2020

United Performing Arts Fund president and CEO Deanna Tillisch kicked off her last fundraising campaign with the united arts fund with a pair of special initiatives: the official launch of the Kasey's Fund Initiative and an addition to the UPAF Ride for the Arts — a special bike race across the Hoan Bridge.

The 2020 campaign is the last for Tillisch, who announced in September 2019 that she will retire Sept. 30, 2020, as the head of UPAF, an organization that raises operating funds for 14 member performing arts groups and various affiliate member groups in the Milwaukee area. The UPAF campaign kickoff event was held at the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee's 3rd Ward and featured performances by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Rep, Florentine Opera, First Stage and Skylight Music Theatre.

Throughout the program, UPAF member groups shared insights on UPAF-funded outreach efforts, including a unique American sign language performance from Skylight Music Theatre. Broadway veterans turned local actors Andrew and Susan Varela emceed the program, which also featured remarks from UPAF and community leaders.

As in recent years, UPAF set no specific monetary goal for the campaign outside of hopes to grow upon the prior year's effort. In 2019, UPAF raised $11,881,893, with $8,820,000 allocated to performing arts groups in 2019. 

UPAF did set a goal of raising $250,000 through the one-year Kasey’s Fund Initiative with all dollars going directly to ensure arts accessibility in the region. The fund is named after Tillisch's daughter, who while having profound cognitive and physical disabilities has an extremely evident appreciation for the arts. New or increased gifts to the campaign designated for Kasey's Fund will be directed to UPAF's two community outreach programs: UPAF Bright Minds, presented by BMO Harris Bank, and UPAF Connect, presented by Northwestern Mutual.

Another new initiative was also announced. In addition to the 2020 UPAF Ride for the Arts on May 31, 2020, UPAF will also be holding a bicycle race over the Hoan Bridge, called UPAF’s Race the Hoan. Seasoned cyclists can race over the Hoan Bridge in a 4.25 mile fondo-style competition. Gran fondo bike events typically mimic a marathon with a mass start, but accommodates both the casual bicyclist and the truly competitive rider. UPAF’s Race the Hoan is sponsored by Super Steel and Belgianwerkx.

Leading this year’s UPAF campaign are co-chairs Tami Garrison, community affairs director at Molson Coors; Justin Mortara, principal of the Mortara Group; and Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres. The campaign runs from March 3 through June 15.

CLICK HERE to view photos from the 2020 Launch event.