Giving back to a family who's given so much

(Published October. 26, 2006, 12:38 p.m.)

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

"The Scherff family is deep-rooted in and around the Williams Bay (and Geneva Lake) communities," said Mary Palmersheim Grobelny, longtime family friend.

The late Dick Scherff was the athletic director and physical education teacher for many years and the director of the Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol for 25 years.

In fact, he passed away while on a rescue call on Geneva Lake, she said. "The football field is even named after him."

And now, his son, Roger Scherff, is fighting for his life, and friends and family are rallying to give back to a family that has given so much to their community for so long.

A benefit has been organized with 100 percent of the proceeds going to pay Scherff's extensive medical expenses. The event is planned for Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Hillmoor Golf Club, 333 E. Main St., Lake Geneva, at 4:30-7 p.m.

Not long ago, Scherff was working as a moving contractor, then he got laid off. Soon he exhausted his funds for all available individual health insurance policies and was denied Disability and Social Security benefits for a preexisting medical condition.

Then he got sick-really sick.

"Right around New Year's Eve (2006) he went to the hospital because he was vomiting blood," Palmersheim Grobelny said. "He was there for two-and-a-half days and they found a 5.5-centimeter aortic aneurysm."

An aortic aneurysm is a stretched and bulging section in the wall of the aorta-the large blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body, according to WebMD. A bulging aorta is weakened and can burst, resulting in life-threatening bleeding. Ruptured aortic aneurysm is the 15th leading cause of death in the United States and occurs in 1 of 20 older men.

With a diagnosis of this caliber, Scherff was ordered by his doctor not to work.

At the beginning of his illness, his internist, Clifford Poplar, MD--who is also a friend from high school--paid Scherff a house call after seeing some of his lab results.

"On Sunday morning Dr. Poplar came to Roger's house saying, 'We have to get to the hospital right now,'" Palmersheim Grobelny said. "I'm not sure exactly how much it was, but he was down like five pints of blood and one pint of plasma.

"I think it's neat that we live in a community where a doctor will come to your door and tell you to get to the hospital right away. You're not going to find that in a large city."

Scherff's friends and family recently found a possible lead for assistance through the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, she said.

The Larry King Cardiac Foundation was established in 1988 to provide funding for life-saving treatment for individuals who, due to limited means or no insurance, would otherwise be unable to receive the treatment and care they so desperately need, according to the Web site (

It was established after King's own quadruple bypass surgery in 1987.

"While King was recovering from his operation, he made a promise to himself to help others who may not be as lucky," the site says.

If this goes through, Scherff will probably go to Cleveland as they're the closest participating hospital. If not, he's scheduled for surgery on Jan. 9, 2007 at Froedtert Hospital.

"Either way, this is a very expensive situation," Palmerscheim Grobelny said. "It's going to cost at least $110,000 just for the surgery."

The Froedtert staff has informed Scherff that because he has no insurance, he needs to pre-pay at least 50 percent of the total cost before the surgery can be performed.

"Meanwhile, he's sitting there with this time bomb in him," she said. "There is no alternative (treatment than the surgery). Once an aortic aneurysm blows, a person needs to have surgical care within three-and-a-half minutes-it's a fatal diagnosis."

Walworth County Wisconsin Chapter of Thrivent 30055 has assisted in the effort to help Scherff along with family and friends.

The benefit will include appetizers, raffles, silent auctions and a cash bar. Tickets are $25 and available at Williams Bay High School during school hours or by calling Palmersheim Grobelny at (262) 743-1765. Tickets are also available at the door the day of the event.

A fund has been established for Scherff at Mid America Bank, 111 Elkhorn Road, P.O. Box 1137, Williams Bay, WI 53191, 245-6541 with checks made payable to the Roger Scherff Fund.

Silent auction items may be dropped off at Hillmoor Pro Shop, 333 E. Main St., Lake Geneva. For more information, call 743-1765 or e-mail





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