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West Salem raises more than $16,000 to feed families in need

Kaitlyn Riley

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An effort to feed families in need exceeded all expectations in West Salem.

The West Salem Education Association (WSEA) partnered with the West Salem Lions Club for a matching funds drive 29 to give grocery gift cards to struggling families in the West Salem School District.

“We knew that there were going to be families that were going to experience hardship,” WSEA Co-President Ryan Waldhart said. “We wanted to help in any way that we could.”

The Lions offered $1,000, giving the effort a $2,000 base. The initial goal was to double those funds.

“Two weeks later with the help of 120 donors, we are over $16,000 in donations from our wonderful community,” Waldhart said. “It just gives me great hope for humanity.”

West Salem Senior Justin Kettner made a big contribution to the cause donating $1,700 as part of his senior exit project. The project started while school was still in session with a fundraiswer barbecue dinner at the high school.

West Salem School District Senior Justin Kettner donated $1,700 from his senior exit project.

“Originally, my plan was to use the money that I raised to offset any negative accounts that we have at the school for students that couldn’t pay their debts,” Kettner said. “When this came around, it just seemed like a better opportunity to benefit the community, and I felt like it would benefit more families overall.”

The grocery store gift cards were all purchased locally through Hansen’s IGA, which also donated $1,000 for the cause. In the first round, 240 families received $50 gift cards. Additional funds will be presented in a second round of donations that Waldhart hoped could help 150 additional families.



Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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