Milwaukee celebrated its 171st Birthday at the Grain Exchange on the eve of Jan. 26, with many public figures joining the top 10 nominated “superheroes” of the city.
Once word was out that Milwaukee was in search of its own superheroes, nominations poured into the Milwaukee Press Club. Then it came time to deciding which would be voted top 10, and that was carefully chosen by both the Board of Governors and the City Birthday Party Planning Committee. Some of the top 10 are: Fr. Tim Kitke, a priest for 26 years who serves four of Milwaukee’s parishes, Marty Schreiber, a one-time Wisconsin governor who advocates for caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s disease, and Vincent Noth, executive director of the Riverwest Food Pantry, growing this pantry to more than just giving food, but giving out much needed resources. You can read the full list here.
Shariff Brookens was 7 when he was diagnosed with Takayasu’s arteritis, a chronic vascular disease, affecting blood vessels causing inflammation and blockage. He was nominated for a wish by his doctor, Judyann Olson, program director for pediatric rheumatology at Children’s Hospital. Finally, when he was 17, he was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Most kids in his position would ask for a trip to Disney World or go on a cruise, or even meet their idol, someone famous, or sports player; but not Brookens. He wanted to create a charitable event in order to raise money for four different charities that fall close to his heart: Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Urban League, Girls in Action, and Make-A-Wish Wisconsin.
Brookens was recognized as one of Milwaukee’s superheroes, and for good merit. He told Media Milwaukee, “I wanted help the city on a broader scale instead of doing something for myself.” He continues to say it’s all in hopes of giving younger people exposure and donating to different charities to give people opportunities to do great things. Even when he deals with headaches, fatigue, and has a compromised immune system, he finds a way to stay positive and keep doing what he’s doing. “It’s a great feeling and as long as I have the money, the time and the resources, I’ll be doing this; this is what I love to do.”
Milwaukee started with a population of 9,660 in 1846 on Jan. 31; Over the course of 171 years, Milwaukee’s population has risen. There are many faces of Milwaukee, and it’s events like these that help bring people together for a better cause than ourselves, organizers say.
For Milwaukee’s 171st birthday, The Milwaukee Press Club hosted a “Celebrating our Heroes” event at the Grain Exchange in downtown Milwaukee. The soiree started at 5:30 p.m. and lasted three hours, or until everybody was tired of mingling. There was a plethora of people, from moms and dads, to mayors, governors, politicians, and there was publicity everywhere, teachers, journalists, and of course, Milwaukee’s superheroes.
The Grain Exchange from the outside is an architectural sight to see, but the inside was much more. When you walk in through a set of decadent double doors, you see a brightly lit, pure white, long hall and staircases on each side. After registering, you are guided up the stairs and into the ballroom, and you can’t do anything but stand in awe. Pillars surrounded the walls, the antique colors of dark yellows and light browns and auburn covered the room. There were large, full scale murals on every wall, the carpet and chairs matched so perfectly, and the lighting was a mix of candles on the table, low lit sconces, and the flashing of cameras.
This event was catered by Bartolotta. Appetizers included two salads, fresh rolls, a hot spinach with bacon and sausage casserole, finished up with a carving station, choosing your meat and watching as the chefs carve as much as you’d like. Need something to wash that meal down with? Complimentary beer was served, while wine and soda were also available. Save room for dessert because you can’t have a birthday party without a cake. A three tiered cake was centered in the middle of the ballroom, with a superhero continuously flying around the cake.
Milwaukee’s superheroes all had one thing in common: all of them made a selfless choice. People nowadays don’t think about the outcome of our actions or even what we say. Many Americans are engrossed in their everyday lives, and they can no longer even hold a door open for someone. But these people, these people are nominated as heroes because they are people who commit selfless acts, random acts of kindness, the stuff you don’t see much of anymore..
Alongside Brookens, there were other selfless choices made; one of them dealt not with donating money, but with donating organs instead. Judge Joann Eiring is close friends with fellow Judge Derek Mosley. In 2014, Mosley was diagnosed with end stage renal cancer.
“I was the first person he told about his diagnosis, and that he’s eventually going to need a kidney.” And Eiring continued, “I said, well I’ll be tested, without hesitation.”
In this day’s society, people don’t give up their only dollar, people don’t buy a sandwich for a homeless man anymore, and people certainly don’t give away organs. “I don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t do this for a friend, and I’ve learned, sadly, that a lot of people wouldn’t. It’s act’s like hers that show us, Milwaukee citizens, that there is still good in this city. Along with that good in her there is also optimism and her wits; “I have two kidneys, I only need one, so it was a no-brainer. I feel great and Derek is feeling great as well.”
Eiring is staying positive and plans to keep serving Milwaukee for as long as she can.