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Hormel Institute adds three events to annual Paint the Town Pink campaign

Through January and February, area residents can take part in events like ice golf and a bean bag tournament in Austin to raise money for cancer research.

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Pink flags and ribbons line Main Street in downtown Austin in this Feb. 1, 2018, file photo as part of the Pain the Town Pink campaign to raise awareness and money for the Hormel Institute's fight against breast cancer.
Post Bulletin file photo
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AUSTIN — Tuesday evening marked the start of 2023 Paint the Town Pink , the annual fundraising campaign that benefits cancer research efforts at the Hormel Institute in Austin.

Daneka Wiechmann, development associate and PTTP coordinator at the institute, said the annual campaign has directed more than $2.3 million toward 33 seed grants.

"It's seed grants for researchers at the institute, which is the money to help start any new innovative research projects that they want to do that they wouldn't otherwise be able to if they just reached out to the (National Institutes of Health)," Wiechmann said. "When you write grants for those ... you have to show what your actual research has done — you have to prove what you're asking for.

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"And with the seed grants that they get," she continued, "they're able to actually start that project."

This year's fundraising campaign kicked off Tuesday night when the institute introduced its 2023 PTTP ambassador, Kathy Wiechmann.

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"I was incredibly honored that they asked me," Kathy Wiechmann said. "They do such an important job in getting the message (out) on breast cancer awareness or any kind of cancer."

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Kathy Wiechmann
Contributed / The Hormel Institute

Kathy Wiechmann, an Austin resident, finished breast cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic in August. She will go back for a checkup in April and said she and her providers are "very optimistic that things are good."

This year's campaign features eight events, three of which are new.

"Toss for a Cure is a bean bag tournament that's going to be held at the Holiday Inn on Feb. 11," Daneka Wiechmann said. "We also have a new one called Freezin for a Reason Ice Golf. It's going to be a little mini golf course with hockey sticks and pink tennis balls."

The third new event is Shooters for Hooters, coordinated by brothers Mike and Joe Walerak. The trap shooting tournament is scheduled for Feb. 18 at Cedar Valley Conservation Center. Team registration is $200 and maxes out at 30 teams. Pink clay pigeons, pink shotgun shells, a T-shirt and a meal will be provided for participants.

"A team consists of five shooters, and each person will shoot 25 targets," Mike Walerak said. "Then it's a combined score for trophies, first through third place."

Registration for Shooters for Hooters will open soon, Walerak said.

The Waleraks' personal experiences with cancer prompted them to start this tournament — the brothers lost their mother, Roseann, to breast cancer seven years ago. Mike Walerak said his sister-in-law and one of his cousins are currently fighting breast cancer, and he has two aunts who are breast cancer survivors.

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"We're both real avid shooting sports people," Walerak said. "We just thought this would be a good way to hopefully raise money for breast cancer and draw people out to our conservation club."

In its latest internal grant cycle, the Hormel Institute in Austin awarded $540,000 in research grants. The funds came from community fundraising efforts.

A full schedule and details for each event can be found on the Paint the Town Pink website . In addition to participating in events, Daneka Wiechmann said people can donate through different events' crowdfunding links and buy PTTP merchandise. Those opportunities will be posted on the campaign's Facebook page .

The yearly campaign is coordinated by community volunteers, Daneka Wiechmann said.

"They're the ones that put in all the time and patience and love to do all this," she said. "Those people, we just always want to just thank and acknowledge and let them know that we appreciate everything that they're doing for us."

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2023 Paint the Town Pink ambassador Kathy Wiechmann speaks at the PTTP kick-off event at the Hormel Institute in Austin, Minn. on Jan. 10, 2023.
Contributed / The Hormel Institute

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Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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