Chilton's Kolbe family honored for 'paying it forward'

Sandi and Ron Kolbe were joined by son Luke and his wife Emily as they drove in Sunday’s parade in Chilton. Janet Murphy photo

Ron and Sandi Kolbe, their son Luke and his wife Emily took time out of their busy schedules last Wednesday evening to be honored as Citizens of the Year by the Chilton Chamber of Commerce.

Then it was right back to work putting the finishing touches on plans for their annual Matt Kolbe Memorial Tournament being held this weekend at Nennig Park, as well as their related efforts to get an all-inclusive playground constructed at the park (see related story elsewhere in this week’s Tri-County News).

It is that type of dedication and selfless work for the betterment of the community which had several people nominate the Kolbe family for the Citizen of the Year award.

The Kolbes said they obviously do not do the things they do for accolades such as this award, although they said they were honored and happy to receive it. Sandi said, “It’s very humbling. I think Chilton’s blessed with a lot of amazing people that give up their time, their talents and their resources. I feel like we’re just a piece to the puzzle.”

They also emphasized that their inspiration for their community service was and is their late son Matt, who had Down syndrome. Matt was an extremely enthusiastic fan of all Chilton sports.

The Matt Kolbe Baseball, Softball and Bean Bag Tournament was started 10 years ago and will be held this weekend, June 25-26 at Nennig Park. Matt’s Field of Dreams game will be held Saturday at 11:30 a.m., allowing people of all abilities a chance to play.

Over the years, funds from the tournament have been donated to a variety of causes and that generosity was cited by the people who nominated the Kolbe family for the Citizen of the Year award.

One nominator said, “Ron and Sandi Kolbe are individuals whom have given back to the community in so many ways over the past years.... This baseball tournament has brought families together to enjoy watching and playing the sport Matt so enjoyed. This tournament event demonstrates Ron and Sandi’s generosity and energy in keeping Matt’s legacy alive in this community.

“The annual brat fry and Matt Kolbe Tournament/Benefit proceeds are returned totally to the community in various kind and beautiful ways. Donations have been made to the Chilton High School SHARE program, Chilton School District Special Olympics and New Hope Day Services programs that were all part of Matt’s inclusive environments, participation in, and his success.

“High school scholarships are awarded annually to several senior students each year who exemplify Matt’s personality—acceptance, kind-heartedness, selflessness and loving. Ron and Sandi also have volunteered with and donated to the Thanksgiving Day Express. This is only a partial list of the many organizations and people within our community who benefit from the Matt Kolbe Benefit events, all from donations to the community gathering and enjoyment at the events.

“Ron and Sandi continue to see the need to keep the shelves of our local Salvation Army stocked with their annual food drive,” the nominator said. “They ‘pay it forward’ to local families in need at Christmas and holidays. Ron and Sandi have given presentations to Chilton High School classes, sharing their lives as parents of a son with Down syndrome. In years past, they have volunteered their time in planning and coordinating the youth handicapable Christmas parties.

“Ron and Sandi throughout the year put in endless hours organizing these events which benefit so many. Their involvement in our community, in giving back/paying it forward is exemplified through their unselfish, giving and generous deeds.”

Another nominator added, “Ron and Sandi are two of the most caring and giving people I know. Their motto has always been to ‘Pay it Forward’ and they most certainly do that year round.... Annually, four to five scholarships are presented to students who portray Matt’s attributes of caring and kindness and a positive attitude. Donations go to the New Hope Center, the Chilton Public School Share Program, the Chilton Athletic Club, the Thanksgiving Day Express, Toys for Tots, Special Olympics, and this is just to name a few of the many organizations and people that may benefit from this great event.

“Besides the money involved in this annual event, it is the time and effort that Ron and Sandi lovingly and graciously put into this year round. They are always searching for ideas to each year make it more of a success for the benefit of others. Their goal is to include everybody, leaving no one out.

“This past year was exceptionally hard to offer as much as they possibly could. They held a huge brat fry to subsidize some of the lost revenue of postponing the (2020) benefit.”

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