In Sports Commentary

Jim Kacmarcik (second from left) unveiling the Lakeshore Chinooks' logo last year as principal owner and team president.

Philanthropy comes naturally for Kapco's Jim Kacmarcik

A couple of years ago I was driving somewhere on a summer night, listening to the Brewers game on the radio.

All of a sudden I heard Robin Yount's distinctive voice. When Yount speaks, I listen. And what I heard was Yount talking about something called Kapco Blue. I had no idea what it was.

A little more listening and I found out Kapco is a metal stamping company. I didn't know what metal stamping was, but I figured if it's good for Yount I ought to get me some. I then discovered that you don't just walk in off the street to your favorite metal stamping store. And I'm still not exactly sure what it is.

What I am sure of is that Kapco is run by a man named Jim Kacmarcik, who is making quite a name for himself in the world of high-profile philanthropy in the Milwaukee area.

Much of his philanthropy revolves around the world of sports, but it is all intended to help people who need help.

I went to a big fundraiser he held last weekend and I expected it to be like many of the hundreds of fundraisers I've been to over the years. Big executive, standing in the limelight, shaking hands and taking bows.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

What I met was an honestly humble man, proud of himself and accomplishments, of course, but one who did not seem to want, need or seek any applause for what he was doing. Nobody was stroking this man's ego.

I actually did some research and his charitable giving has a breadth that is incredibly impressive. Over 200 charities received some kind of contribution from Kapco last year. That's a lot.

I talked with Kacmarcik this week and he called his charitable giving a mission.

"I don't want to get into any big religious thing," he said, "but I believe everything I come into contact with is God's and I'm just a temporary holder."

Under normal circumstances I might brush that off as another guy waving the God flag. Not this man. I talked with a number of people who know and work with him and to a person they talked about his generosity and humility.

"One of the best things I can do is to provide some way for people to help by volunteering or donating," he said. "That kind of gives them a way to pay it forward and feel good about what they are doing.

"I don't do all of this myself. I like to think I can provide an opportunity to help. It's very meaningful to watch people be happy with themselves and what they do."

To understand a little about this guy, it's educational to talk a little about his extreme makeover in Grafton. It was Kacmarcik who was one of the chief organizers in a project late last year to renovate the home of a Grafton woman to make it accessible for her and her three children. It attracted the help of dozens of businesses and more than 1,000 volunteers.

"Obviously we changed the life of that woman and her children," he said. "But after it was over I asked the volunteers who got more out of the program than they gave. The response was overwhelming."

This is not my first rodeo and I've seen hustlers, con men and pretenders come and go during my life, selling spirit water from the back of a truck.

Kacmarcik is about as far from that as you can get. His charity work is high profile. His personal life is not. He is clearly not about himself but about others.

There are really two types of charitable giving. One is to change lives the other is to enhance the life experience. It seems to me that Kacmarcik has found a way to merge the two, not an easy task.

He's not the only one in this area. There are lots of people who do lots of good work and don't get much credit for it. But all of us, including myself, can learn a lot from the way this guy goes about his daily business. A lot.

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