Cattlemen's Ball raises $480,000 for UNMC cancer research

picture disc.
From left, Cattlemen's Ball co-chairmen Matt Monheiser and Mike Behrends, UNMC Eppley Cancer Center Director Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., and Laurie and John Widdowson during a check presentation in Sidney last week. The Cattlemen's Ball, which was hosted by on June 2 by the Widdowsons in Lodgepole, raised $480,000 for research at the Eppley Cancer Center.
Thanks to the dedicated people of western Nebraska, the 2007 Cattlemen's Ball raised $480,000 for research at the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center.

"This generous contribution is an illustration of what we witnessed from western Nebraskans during the entire year leading up to the Cattlemen's Ball," said Eppley Cancer Center Director Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., who traveled to Sidney last week for a check presentation. "Year in and year out the Cattlemen's Ball showcases all that is right about rural Nebraska and this year's event proved to be no exception."

On June 2, more than 3,300 people traveled to Lodgepole -- which is about 20 miles east of Sidney -- to attend the ball at The SandPoint Cattle Company, LLC -- a ranch owned by Ray and Mary Alger and operated by John and Laurie Widdowson.

About $535,000 was raised during the event, with 90 percent of that going to support cancer research at UNMC. The other 10 percent is used to benefit health care efforts in western Nebraska.

The Cattlemen's Ball is held annually to showcase beef as part of a healthy diet and to raise money for health care research.

This year's ball featured a working cow horse event, a wine tasting, a style show, a concert by country music star Jo Dee Messina and several auctions -- including the sale of 10 angus cattle embryos that sold for a combined total of $82,700.

The $535,000 raised was the third-highest total in the 10 years of the ball has been held and marked the third consecutive year that the ball raised more than $500,000.

The Widdowsons hosted the ball and said they are still in awe about how the western Nebraska community came out in support of the event.

"I'm very proud of how all of us pooled our resources and talents," Laurie Widdowson said. "We ended up throwing one heck of a good party."

Breakdown of money raised for cancer research at past Cattlemen's Balls
1998 - Ainsworth -- $95,000
1999 - Lexington -- $140,000
2000 - Ogallala -- $104,000
2001 - Valentine -- $133,000
2002 - Valparaiso -- $207,000
2003 - Ashland -- $33,000
2004 - Brady -- $174,000
2005 - Wisner -- $595,000
2006 - Milford -- $563,250
2007 - Lodgepole -- $480,000
Total - $2,524,250

She still has people telling her what a good time they had at the ball, Widdowson said. This is particularly true of those who worked to organize and produce the ball, she said.

"That's the most gratifying part, hearing the people who worked on the event say how much it meant to them," Widdowson said.

About 600 volunteers helped organize and support the 2007 ball.

The 2008 Cattlemen's Ball will be in Albion in north central Nebraska on June 7-8. It will be hosted by the Niewohner Cattle Company. Planning meetings already have been held and volunteers are lining up for the ball.

"Mark your calendars now," Dr. Cowan said. "It should be a great event."