Updated: 06/04/2014 10:34 PM
Created: 06/04/2014 10:25 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
Fishermen at the 19th annual Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament reeled in a record number of donations Saturday.
The tournament raised $171,525 to help fight the life-altering disease otherwise known as Lou Gehrigs. This year's total surpassed the event's previous donation record by about $15,000 and put its all-time total near $2.3 million.
Event organizer Blake Kolquist said it was great to see fishermen come out in the hundreds to support the cause but what has been most impressive for him is the community's lasting support.
"It's incredible," Kolquist said. "We watch all year and we work all year for events like these and to get support from the community and volunteers, especially the fishermen. They keep showing up and are all here for the right reasons- to make a difference for ALS."
Kolquist has a special connection to the tournament, as it was his uncle, Kevin Kolquist, who was the event's inspriation after he was diagnosed with ALS nearly two decades ago.
"(ALS) was new to our family. We didn't know a lot about it, but we became more familiar with it over the years and more familiar with people around the region who are affected by it. We tried to put stuff together to make a difference," Kolquist said.
Money raised from the event goes to support patients in the Northland and the Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota regions. Kolquist said medical equipment, respite care and helping to make patients' lifestyles with the disease manageable are key areas that tournament organizers hope to cover with the donations.
Adam Krause has been volunteering with the event for about 10 years and said while the tournament is competition-based, it's hard to tell looking at the generous donations and large volunteer corps.
"The fishing is a big part of it, but it's more about helping out, trynig to find a cure for ALS," Krause said. "The anglers obviously want to win it, but to raise money, that's the most important thing."
Fisherman Mark Geistfeld of Hermantown said he caught several fish during the Island Lake event, but added that the real catch was the tournament itself.
"It's just amazing," Geistfeld said. "Even if I didn't fish it, I think I'd volunteer just to be a part of this. It's a real joy."
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