Celebrating Family

Closing the hunger gap for kids

Jack Salwedel and Steve and Nicki Stricker tour the River Food Pantry in Madison, Wis. As a husband, a father, and someone active in the Madison, Wis. community, it’s shocking: Nearly 19,000 kids in our area are at risk for insufficient nutrition.


The first time I heard that statistic, I didn't believe it. Not in Madison. After all, we are home to a world-class university, a progressive state government, and our economy does better than most at weathering national economic downturns.

It’s shocking, especially to those of us who don’t think twice about a trip to the grocery store or a visit to one of the many farmers’ markets in the area. There are colorful mountains of fresh, wholesome food - right?

And yet 19,000 kids may not get the healthy food they need to build strong bodies and healthy minds. Studies suggest that kids who go hungry early in life are 2 ½ times more likely to have poor overall health 10 to 15 years later. Those are simply terrible statistics.

As a community, we have the financial resources and compassion, the knowledge and the spirit to fix this problem. I know we can do a better job to get kids the nutrition they need. United Way’s Healthy Food for All Children initiative is leading the charge and together we can do this. We may not be able to solve world hunger, but we sure can feed the hungry child next door.

An emotional Steve Stricker talks about how his new foundation will support the United Way's new Healthy Food for All Children initiative. American Family learned about this new initiative just as we were starting a charitable foundation with professional golfer Steve Stricker and his wife, Nicki. Although it’s very early in the foundation’s development, we know its focus is helping to build strong families and healthy kids. We’ve identified nutrition and overall wellness as a place to start.

It’s a perfect fit. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation is pleased to make its first gift to the community through the United Way of Dane County’s Healthy Food for All Children initiative. We’re proud to help kick start this important work with a $50,000 gift. The initiative gets more fresh, healthy food to kids who need it right now and its 10-year plan includes measuring results so improvement can be maintained over time.

With your help we can achieve even more. Whether you donate, volunteer or educate others, why not help us? You can join in and support United Way of Dane County in this work by calling United Way 2-1-1 or log onto www.unitedwaydanecounty.org to volunteer or donate today.

Every child deserves the chance to achieve their dreams. Are you with us?

Editor’s note: United Way’s Healthy Food for All Children community plan is the result of a partnership between United Way, the Goodman Foundation and Community Action Coalition of Southeastern Wisconsin. It was introduced on June 24, and focuses on several strategies. It will enhance access to healthy foods for children and families and increase the capacity of neighborhoods and communities to support affordable healthy food choices.  It will also maintain culturally appropriate healthy food during and after school, throughout summer programs and in childcare through expanded choices for students and integrated education on healthy living. More than 30 community leaders developed the plan that unifies the community in a common vision to increase options and availability of healthy food for children. 

This first appeared as on op-ed in the Capital Times on July 17, 2013. 

Posted by Jack Salzwedel on Fri, Jul 19 2013 6:59 am

Roots in Tradition, Seeds of Change

American Family Insurance supports sustainable programs like employee community gardens.For me, the start of a new growing season sparks ideas and opportunities for growth. Since this year’s growing season took a bit longer to kick into gear, that left plenty of time to dream and plan!

As co-lead for the American Family Employee Community Garden at the company's National Headquarters in Madison, Wis., I’ve had the pleasure of seeing new faces, new plots and new enthusiasm invigorate our garden’s third season. And without the support of an incredibly dedicated group of garden volunteers, participant gardeners, and corporate champions the garden wouldn’t be what it is today.

Here's a look at some of the 2013 highlights:

  • Enough gardener interest to justify four new 10’ x 10’ plots (bringing our total to 122).  
  • Commitment from our company's Food Pantry Committee and our garden community to exceed last year’s fresh produce donation of 388 pounds, which aligned well with our support of Feeding America during our Pledge to Plant a Row in May and June.
  • Utilize extra space for our community garden's Vine Patch. In its second year, this group of gardeners grows squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons. In addition, this space serves as the incubator for one gardener’s dream of growing her own Great Pumpkin! (Stay tuned for updates.) 

Interest in employee community gardens has reached American Family's St. Joseph, Mo., regional office, where a recently formed garden committee is exploring what it will take to bring a garden on site. The hope is that a garden will be in place for the 2014 growing season!

So, why would an insurance company bother with an on-site community garden?

Back in August 2010, I enrolled in a leadership class and was challenged to create something that would foster a more sustainable community. LeeAnn Glover, another American Family employee also in the class, joined me in the effort to develop a vision and plan for what is now the Employee Community Garden. The project aligned perfectly with American Family's goals of workplace sustainability, health and wellness, and employee engagement. The garden plan not only addressed forward-looking goals, but also reflected back on the company’s history.

American Family has deep roots in agriculture, going back to 1927 when the company was formed here in Madison. Back then, we were Farmers Mutual Insurance Company and the business strategy focused on insuring farmers (in 1963 the name changed to American Family Mutual Insurance Company in response to geographic and customer expansion). It didn’t take American Family long to grow beyond Wisconsin’s borders, but the company has never forgotten those agricultural traditions of integrity, hard work and community relationships.

Those traditions have manifested themselves through the garden’s personal-scale cultivation. The land continues to give back. The garden is a conduit by which employees and their families can experience the reward of a harvest, share fresh produce with those in our community who need it, and form new friendships as well as a new-found respect for patience in nature.

Posted by Angela Freedman on Fri, Jul 12 2013 7:29 amAngela Freedman is a compliance and ethics senior consultant with American Family Insurance and co-lead for the company's Employee Community Garden.

A Fire from Within: Emily Anhalt Continues to Dream Despite Her Battle with FSGS

Emily AnhaltWhen I first met Emily Anhalt, I was struck by how calm she was. She was a very mellow individual despite all that had happened to her. Now more than ever, I know the strength of the neighborhood girl who grew up across the street from me.

Since she was two-and-a-half years old, Emily has been battling Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, a kidney disease that has put her through multiple surgeries and infections. Recently, she’s had an even greater stay in the hospital (since the beginning of this year). 

But Emily is a survivor. And a dreamer.

She has inspired the Waunakee, Wis., community. At the Waunakee Community High School graduation, the class of 2013 wore orange ribbons on their gowns in Emily's honor, since she couldn’t join them. There are orange signs in the front yards of many homes in Waunakee, with a kidney shape around the words “Orange4Emily”, the title of an organization started to raise funds for her medical bills and kidney illness awareness overall. 

My dream is to get Emily's favorite band, One Direction, to visit her at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis. The band is on a North American tour, and they’ll be coming through Madison sometime between July 13 and July 18.

The boys of One Direction wrote a book about their life stories and rise to fame. Emily is inspired by their stories and dreams of writing an autobiography as well. If she’s able to meet them, she’ll be newly energized to publish her story, and get her message out there for other kids fighting chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

By getting One Direction to Emily, I want to make sure another American Dream is met. It's also what my company stands for.

Emily’s dream is not just her own, but the dream of her family, her friends, the hospital staff and her community. Now we're taking that dream on as our own.

You can help! Use social media to share Emily's story. I've even written a few tweets you could send - and share with Emily's favorite band - One Direction:

Sometimes a dream passes from an individual to a community (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Help us help Emily reach for her dreams despite FSGS (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Survivors are beautiful. Em is a survivor. Beautiful people do not just happen (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Emily’s a BIG fan. She’d love to see 1D to help move her towards her dreams (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

RT if you know of Em’s strength and dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

One community, one family, one girl, one dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm  

Send your tweets to these people to generate the buzz we need to bring One Direction to Emily!

@ModestMgmt (One Direction’s management company)
@paulyhiggins (One Direction’s tour manager)
@onedirection (the band)
@Harry_Styles (Harry Styles, band member)
@zaynmalik (Zayn Malik, band member)
@Real_Liam_Payne (Liam Payne, band member)
@NiallOfficial (Niall Horan, band member)
@Louis_Tomlinson (Louis Tomlinson, band member).

Tweet as many times a day as you want. Tweet at as many different band members as you want. My only request is if the band or its management show any interest in meeting Emily, please direct them to me at cjuergen@amfam.com.

Thank you so much for your support and tweets!

Let’s make Emily's dream come true. 

Editor's note: Learn more about Emily's story on the Orange4Emily website, Facebook page and Twitter account.  

Posted by Carrie Juergens on Fri, Jul 05 2013 1:07 pmCarolyn Juergens is a summer intern at American Family Insurance. She's currently studying at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Stop to celebrate summer's little moments

30 Days of SummerGrowing up in a family of five kids, you can imagine the kind of chaos that embarking on our summer camping trip created.

As my mother frantically filled our industrial-sized cooler with enough hot dogs and baked beans to feed a small country, my siblings and I scurried about looking for lost swimsuits, fighting over beach toys, and trying to coax our stubborn dog into the back of our ancient Volkswagen van.

“Bus is leaving!” my Dad used to holler, honking the horn as we scrambled to get in - fishing poles sticking haphazardly out the windows, and our dog naughtily sneaking nibbles from the picnic basket. This chaotic routine greatly amused our neighbors, along with our inevitable return to the house to retrieve whatever beloved stuffed animal someone had forgotten – and just couldn’t do without.

You’d think this yearly circus we went through to go camping would have gotten tiresome, but it never did. To me, it signaled the long-awaited start of summer – but more importantly, it was a rare chance for my whole family to spend time together. Whether we were relaxing around the campfire, hunting for frogs in the lake, or playing card games, these moments are the ones I will always remember and cherish.

Whatever your own, fond recollections of summer may be, the truth is this time of year has a wonderful, effortless way of bringing us closer to the ones we love. In this spirit, American Family invites you and your family to join us for our 30 Days of Summer celebration.

The American Family Insurance 30 Days of Summer Throughout the season, we’ll feature ideas for family fun and safety with our communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Whether it’s catching fireflies, a day at the ball park, or waiting for the neighborhood ice cream truck, 30 Days of Summer seeks to celebrate and protect the little summer moments that can inspire lifelong memories.

Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures!

Posted by Grace VanDeWeghe on Thu, Jun 20 2013 1:27 pm

The Summer Biking Season is here. Are You Ready?

Safe summer biking tipsOne of my favorite summer activities is bike riding. After a long winter, getting back on my bike is a treat.

I’m not training for competition or trying to see how far I can go. I ride to relax and enjoy the scenery. Exercise is an added benefit.

When it comes to riding, I’m lucky. There are nice, rural roads about five blocks from my home with few cars and trucks to worry about. When riding, I can focus on the scenery and fresh air.

Here are a few common-sense tips get ready for the season: 

  • Take a few moments and get last season’s dirt and crud off your bike and its mechanisms. This helps extend the life of your bike and its components.
  • Inspect your brakes. Brakes not only stop you, they prevent you from going too fast for your comfort level. You don’t want to be going down a hill only to discover you can’t slow down or stop.
  • Inspect the chain, pedals, gears and derailleur. Make sure everything is clean, properly lubricated and functioning properly.
  • Make sure the tires are in good condition, have plenty of tread and don’t show any cracks or other signs of wear. Properly inflate them, too. The last thing you want is to be miles from home with a flat tire.
  • Check the brake and gear shift cables. Cables that are clean, in good condition and at the proper tension make changing gears and braking that much smoother.
  • Don’t forget your helmet and reflective clothing. Riding isn’t a stealth operation – you want to be seen. There are lots of options for bright, reflective neon colors to increase your visibility. When it comes to a helmet, get a good one. You don’t have a $10 head, so why trust it to a $10 helmet.  
  • Remember traffic rules. You have the same responsibilities as auto drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic, use the rightmost lane and signal all turns.

Following these simple tips can give you a summer of great biking. If you’re not comfortable making repairs or adjustments to your bike yourself, most shops offer spring tune-ups by reputable mechanics.

Summer is too short to spend indoors. Give yourself a lift and go for a ride.

Editor's note: Where do you like to ride? Leave a comment and share your dream cycling getaway spot. Enjoy the ride!

Posted by Eric Wolf on Tue, Jun 18 2013 1:31 pm
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