Stoefflers presented Danny Ruehlow Award at telethon

Community volunteers Mary and Ken Stoeffler received the 14th annual Danny Ruehlow Award at this year’s Eagles’ Heart and Cancer Telethon in Prairie du Chien. The award, presented by emcee Tom Nelson, is given each year by Don and Jean Ruehlow, whose son Danny died at age 15. Danny was an emcee on the telethon. (Photo by Randy Paske)

For their volunteer work in the community, Mary and Ken Stoeffler, of Prairie du Chien, were presented the Danny Ruehlow Award at the Eagles’ Heart and Cancer Telethon held Jan. 25.

Don and Jeanne Ruehlow, of Prairie du Chien, gave the annual award to the Stoefflers in memory of their son, Danny, who died at the age of 15 in December 2000 due to complications from a second bone marrow transplant in his fight against leukemia. Danny was a popular figure in Prairie du Chien and an emcee on the telethon. It was the 14th presentation of the award that recognizes caring and compassionate work in the community.

The award was presented by telethon emcee Tom Nelson in the Ruehlow’s absence because Jeanne Ruehlow had a kidney transplant at UW Hospital in Madison earlier in the week. She is now recuperating at home.

Don Ruehlow explained how the Stoefflers’ traits are very similar to Danny’s. They have showed compassion and volunteer to help others.

“When it comes to helping the youth of our community, few can compare to Mary and Ken Stoeffler,” Don Ruehlow said. “Both are very familiar with the telethon because they both served on the telethon board for six years and organized acts for the event during that time. Mary conducted many talent show competitions at the Catholic school and then brought the students to the telethon stage for all to see and enjoy.”

Ruehlow said the list of their efforts is long:

Mary once served as coach of the cheerleaders for the high school basketball team. Ken has been a basketball coach at the Catholic school for the past 10 years and, today, he is the school’s volunteer athletic director.

Mary and Ken have been involved in the PdC youth soccer program for the past seven years. Both have coached youth programs; Ken helped organize it and today he is the high school junior varsity boys soccer coach.

Mary created the forensics program at the Catholic middle school.

Both are very involved in church activities and serve as the chaperones for the church-sponsored trips to Milwaukee Brewer games for youth who are church servers. Ruehlow said, “That’s no easy job because youth servers fill two motor coach buses.”

Mary is probably best known today for her work as co-leader of the church’s Jaywalker Prairie Catholic Youth Group. This volunteer program helps those in need. At Christmas time, they adopt a less fortunate family each year and give them presents. They also make blankets and give them to residents of the nursing home. This past summer, Mary took a group of four Jaywalkers to a diocese-sponsored trip to Mississippi, where they spent a week helping hurricane victims with cleanup and rebuilding.

Women of the local nursing home are also very familiar with Mary because she is their hairdresser. In fact, Mary is at the nursing home frequently, maybe just visiting as well as cutting hair, and giving them gifts. Mary has told her four children several times that older folks have much to give back, Ruehlow said. Mary said at the telethon that she had gone to the Ruehlow home 19 years ago and gave Danny a “buzz-cut” prior to his hair falling out from the first round of chemotherapy treatments.

Ken is Santa Claus at the nursing home and Mary is the elf. Each year, their sleigh is full of gifts they give to residents. Ken also has been Santa at the community-wide free Christmas dinner the past three years.
The Stoeffler children helped emcee Nelson present the award at the telethon by placing the Danny Ruehlow Award medallions around the necks of their parents.

Ruehlow said, “Mary and Ken are examples of some of the best of what Prairie du Chien has to offer. They are caring, compassionate and never hesitate when someone needs help. They are always the first to arrive to help and many times the last to leave. They embody what our son Danny did so well during his short life.”

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