By Craig Marx, Editor
After the tragic shooting at Antigo High School’s prom in April, three young Antigo car enthusiasts have pooled together both their love of automobiles and their pride in their hometown to give hope back to the community. These young philanthropists recently organized the Cars for a Cause car meet – set for June 4th at the Langlade County Fairgrounds – an event in which all proceeds will be donated to the prom victims and their families, the high school, and local law enforcement organizations.
Jonah Koeppel, Clayton McGhee, and Charlie Schlieve, Jr. are determined to help Antigo while doing what they love at the same time.
“It just feels good to bring the community together,” Schlieve, 20, told the Antigo Times.
The idea was originated the day after the shooting when Koeppel, 17 years old and a 2016 prom attendee, posted a Facebook message to the Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club (WCEC) explaining the situation. “It was a terrible tragedy and really took a toll on a lot of people,” Koeppel wrote to his fellow car lovers. “We could use the prayers, especially the victims and the family of the shooter. Who would have thought, in our small town.” Koeppel also sent along a picture of him and his date in attendance at the prom the evening before.
Not long after Koeppel’s post, the buzz around the WCEC Facebook page sparked a number of its members to help the grieving community.
“We should have a car meet and raise money for the community. I think it would be an awesome idea…” Dillon Ritchie later commented.
“I agree, organizing a meet for the Antigo [Police Department] and the school itself would make a positive impact,” another member replied.
With the possibility of a charity event gaining far-reaching support via social media, the group of Antigonians reached out to Anival Fernandez , president of the Project Midwest Automotive Club of Wisconsin, for help in organizing the meet.
“We… have tried to meet every need these guys asked for with helping in getting info on how to acquire a venue and along with insurance and getting the word out there,” Fernandez said.
The young men took the idea and ran with it. Reaching out to other automotive clubs, the meet’s projected numbers are near 2,000 people as of now, including clubs from as far away as Ohio.
The venerable group of men wanted to secure the Langlade County Fairgrounds as the opportune venue for the eventual meet, with more space available than the AHS parking lot and the abundance of people already out and about for the city-wide garage sale, held the same weekend, likely to stop by.
“The fairground committee was very supportive of the idea. They gave us a few helpful ideas and even mentioned making this an annual thing, but we have to see how this one goes first,” Koeppel joked.
“The fairgrounds provided us with helpful information on the way we have things set up, because we have pre-registration with a map of where we were going to put things. So, they have been watching the event page and helped out a lot at the meeting. [They] gave us the track for the event for free,” McGhee, 23 years old, added.
The event hosts have received multiple donations from automotive clubs and businesses to help cover the cost of the event. With all proceeds going to benefit the victims of the shooting, local law enforcement, and AHS, the support of the community in helping make the meet possible has been encouraging to the young promoters.
“The support has made us feel amazing to see that so many people are actually coming from all over for this event,” McGhee said. “[It’s] mind blowing. We are hoping to draw the community back together because when something like this happens, it doesn’t just hurt one person – it hurts the whole community.”
Now over one month since the shooting, the recent Antigo Strong campaign and the current work being organized by Schlieve, McGhee, and Koeppel is numbing the pain.
“We would just like for the community to feel safe once again where they not only grew up but where they all live their lives,” Fernandez said. “We want everyone to know they have all the support from not only within their community but everyone else in the state and surrounding areas. We also want to shed light on the bullying aspect and raise awareness on that as well. I can only speak for myself but at the same time I think we can all agree that we feel great doing this and helping as much as we can and to bring a bit of joy to everyone in the city of Antigo.”
The bullying aspect of both the shooter’s motive and the subsequent solutions will be difficult to deal with, but now Antigo is not alone in finding answers and helping remedy the situation. With a fun atmosphere and plenty of cars and trucks to view and vote on, the car meet is a benevolent step towards community normalcy.
The entrance fee for the meet is $5, while parking available on location is also $5. Children 10 and under are allowed in for free. For more information, especially those interested in entering a vehicle and available prizes, please visit the event’s Facebook page at Antigo Car Show for a Cause.