Challenge Party History: 1989 to the Present
The Challenge Party tradition was established by community members Ed Hashek, Gary Hollander, Terry Hueneke, Dana Levan and Jim Miersma (the “Challengers”). It began in 1989 as a fundraising event designed to challenge friends to financially support the important work of the Milwaukee AIDS Project and its Life Care Services Fund.
The “challenge” was for attendees to dig deep into their philanthropic pockets and give an amount that was financially challenging.
The “party” was a celebration of this generosity — an event that brought the community together for embracing conversations, scrumptious foods, tantalizing beverages, and live music. Attire ranged from flowing capes to bejeweled headdresses to vintage formalwear to conservative business suits. The setting for each year was to be a unique and fabulous location. Importantly, the cost of producing the celebration was to be underwritten by the challengers, so that every dollar contributed could go directly and in full to the designated recipient.
In 1992, the vision for the event expanded to include support for LGBT-serving organizations with programs that promoted a healthy and welcoming community. With that expansion, the Lesbian Alliance of Metro Milwaukee (LAMM) was added as a recipient organization.
To encourage support for newly emerging LGBT organizations, the opportunity for a rotating third recipient organization was established in 1995. Three years later, Milwaukee’s LGBT Community Center became a standing beneficiary along with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.
By 2016, 55 individuals had served as challengers and more than 400 people had met the challenge, with most turning out for the event year after year.
Together, they have generated more than $1.1 million in support to Milwaukee’s LGBT-serving organizations. Thanks to the generosity of Challenge Party participants, what began as a vision for a healthier community and a greater level of equality has become a reality.