Mark Osiecki was advised to think about starting small with his charity fishing event.
The University of Wisconsin men's hockey associate head coach instead wanted to go big, and it looks like his Casting for Kids outing on Saturday is going to do just that.
Osiecki said his goal is to raise $25,000 for the UW Carbone Cancer Center and American Family Children's Hospital in the inaugural outing. Muskie fishing takes place on Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa during the day, with a dinner and auction at the East Side Club afterward.
Working with Wally Banfi and Pat Westberg, Osiecki opened the fishing event to 19 boats, with a $600 entry fee providing a boat and guide. Spots sold out, and organizers have had to turn people away, Osiecki said.
"It hasn't been a year in planning, so to see people open their arms, open their checkbooks and help out, it's been outstanding," he said.
That also goes for a set of former Badgers players who have contributed signed items for an auction.
Osiecki sent out a group text to UW alumni who are playing in the NHL asking for contributions, and within a few days he had items pouring in.
A scroll through Osiecki's Twitter feed in the past few months has previewed the auction inventory, with gift certificates and more bolstering the hockey content.
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Last Saturday, on the morning of Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and former Osiecki protege Ryan McDonagh reached out to say that the jersey the player had requested from the team had finally arrived. He wanted to know where to send it.
Osiecki joked that McDonagh, then deep in the chase for the Stanley Cup, probably had a couple more important things to do than sign a jersey. But he used it as an example of the way people have been willing to help out.
"It's cool to see the response," Osiecki said. "All those guys have been awesome."
Osiecki grew up fishing in Minnesota and said he has wanted to host a charity event for years. After appearing as a guest on Banfi's Ultimate Outdoors radio show, the wheels started turning.
He picked UW Carbone Cancer Center and American Family Children's Hospital as beneficiaries through connections with Badgers head coach Tony Granato, friends and family members.
"It was one that just hit home and seemed like a great fit," Osiecki said.
The long-term goal, Osiecki said, is to grow the catch-and-release event to become more family friendly, with divisions for other fish besides muskies.