Treasured Chests in Tomah hosts Ladies Night Out Aims for deep impact on breast cancer fighters and research


On Thursday, February 1st, Ladies Night Out, a fundraiser where monies brought in get funneled back out into the community, was held at Murray’s on Main, in Tomah, Wisconsin. The nonprofit organization that has planned, implemented, and hosted the event since 2017, is Treasured Chests — a seven-person organization.

Ladies Night Out is held every other year. The herculean effort disbands the grand total of monies drummed up, sending solid money sums to several entities associated with contributing to the many facets of breast cancer, from when the fighters are first diagnosed, to a boutique and meals for chemo patients, to research.  

On Sunday, February 4th, the Herald sat down with three members of Treasured Chests: Denise Prissel – Vice President, Ann Schleicher – former President and breast cancer survivor, and Autumn Garrels – Secretary and Treasurer. The interview took place within the comforting energies of Sacred Space, a Tomah business, located at 1104 Superior Avenue — a business owned by Ann Schleicher.

In the beginning

The nonprofit, Treasured Chest, was formed in 2017. They have seven members, six of whom are women, and two who are survivors: President - Stefanie Walker, and former President – Ann Schleicher. “We are a fundraising organization that donates to women in the local area that are going through breast cancer,” said Ann Schleicher. “When we hear about a fighter, we will send them a $100 Kwik Trip gift card immediately, to help them with transportation expenses.” Schleicher informed the Herald that Treasured Chest will follow up, with the same person, three months later and give them another $100 gift card.

Ann Schleicher told the Herald that they donate to many programs that support women going through breast cancer, in a strong attempt to have a deeper and far-reaching impact . “We set up a fund, for at least $16,000, with the Gunderson Medical Foundation,” Schleicher stated.

Autumn Garrels added, “We are in, or associated with Paula’s Purse. They also help women in many different aspects, who are going through breast cancer.”

“Our funds will replace the funds in Paula’s Purse,” Schleicher interjected. “It gets pretty technical, but that is the gist of it.”

Ann Schleicher then went on to the next organizations that Treasured Chests financially supports. “We also donated $5,000 to Kabara Cancer Research Institute, which is part of the UW-La Crosse campus - their cancer research center. We donated $10,000 to Tomah Health, which actually paid for meals for chemo patients, for an entire year.”

Schleicher went on to explain that when patients are going through chemo treatments, there will be times that they are there all day, and that nourishing meals are provided for them, through the Tomah Health donation.

“We also donated $10,000 to the Gunderson Medical System, here in Tomah,” Schleicher added. “We set up a boutique that has wigs, scarves, shampoos and more.”

“Everything there is free,” said Denise Prissel, Vice President of Treasured Chests. “Everybody gets a hat and things that they need, during their treatments, at no cost to them.”

Diversification Impact

Ann Schleicher, former president of the group, explained to the Herald that Treasured Chests wants to make a large impact on the breast cancer community. “That’s really why we formed this organization, to make the big impact. Stefanie Walker, our current president, and I, are the two survivors in our group. We were really well supported, and we wanted to find as many ways as we could, to give back. There is a lot of support, but there can always be more.”

In the Beginning

Before they had become the nonprofit they are today, Treasured Chest used to gather, as a group of eight, and help raise money for breast cancer fighters. “We were mostly getting together to do breast cancer walks, by participating in events, like Stepping Out in Pink, and Race for the Cure,”Ann began informing the Herald. “In February of 2017, we all [8 people] purchased a table for Ladies Night Out, which at the time was being hosted by Team Tomah, an organization who raised money to go to the Avon walk, which is a 39-mile walk, over two days. They raised a lot of money for breast cancer. Team Tomah said that they had reached their end, with hosting the event, and asked if there was anyone or group that wanted to take over the daunting task. I stood up, as if it were a reflex, and said ‘We will do it!’ … a brawl nearly broke out at our table.” Denise and Autumn laughed at Ann’s quip.

Denise, Autumn, and Ann spoke at the same time, nodding their heads in agreement of what each other was saying. “We all came back together, agreed that we would do it and we absolutely hit the ground running.”

It’s Personal

Treasured Chests ultimate goal was, and remains, to make a direct impact on women in the Tomah area that are going through breast cancer. “They get a homemade card from us, which shows our love and support,” Ann stated. “It is very personal. People will reach out to us that somebody was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then we just go from there. We immediately start in with the love and support. The fighter themselves do not even ask for the $100 gift card. We just send it them because we heard it from someone … word of mouth is enough for us to begin being all-in.”

The three representatives from Treasured Chests confirmed that it does not matter if they know someone or not — they are there for everyone. “People have come to know that they can just get ahold of us, and we will be here to help them, wherever and whenever we can,” Schleicher said.

Not Just about the Money

“We do not just offer monetary support,” Ann Schleicher continued. “When we send a card out, to the fighter, we also offer any kind of emotional support that we can. We are not social workers or therapists, but two of us have been through this and most of us have been alongside a fighter… we know that money is nowhere near the total  solution, but an important part of the equation.”

Ann told the Herald, “Our Vice President, Denise and President, Stefanie are sisters. Stefanie is a survivor, so what they do is very personal for them. I am always jealous of their nice big family.”

In an emotional moment within the interview, Ann Schleicher told the Herald that Autumn Garrels was instrumental in supporting her. “Autumn was there for me, in my most vulnerable times, during my breast cancer battle …  we know how important love and comfort are, that it is not just monetary. There needs to be a strong support system for emotions and mental health. You cannot do it on your own. We are here, in all apects, for the fighters.”

Shooters for Hooters

Treasured Chests holds two major events, Ladies Night Out, which is held every other year, and Shooters for Hooters, which is held once a year, in October, at the Tomah/Wyville Rod & Gun Club. It is a trapshooting event. “We prepare all homemade food and serve lunch there,” explained Autumn Garrels. “There are meat raffles, 50/50, basket auctions … it is a very different feel than Ladies Night Out, since there are a lot of men at that one. It runs into the late afternoon.”

Heartfelt Gratefulness

When the Herald asked Treasured Chests members, Autumn Garrels and Denise Prissel, if they wanted to give a shoutout to anyone or a group, they responded, “We want to thank all of our Tomah businesses for all the amazing support that they give us. There are so many that it needs to be a general shoutout that encompasses them all. We even have individuals who send in checks, for a myriad of different reasons. We really, from the bottom of hearts, are so grateful, and thank them all for their proactive kindness.”

Benny Mailman, Finding 42, Author, Editor, Ladies Night Out, Tomah. Ann Schleicher, breast cancer, breast cancer support, fighters, survivors


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