Mark Obois, owner of Fitz’s On The Lake, has always done his best to give back to the communities where his restaurants are located. He also wants to bring awareness to local charities and other organizations that oftentimes need help, especially now amid a pandemic.
The restaurant recently announced a winner of a contest that had patrons guess the weight of a giant pumpkin located just outside its doors. The cost was $2 per guess, but patrons were encouraged to donate more, if they chose to. All proceeds, which totaled $114 for the pumpkin contest, went to Reach Out Lodi.
“I got to know (ROL President) Jim (Schmiedlin) a little over the years, and I know they can always use the help,” Obois said. “With the need for food over the holidays, (ROL) was a good fit to get funds.”
Obois, who owns Fitz’s with his wife Bonnie, has donated to Reach Out Lodi, and other local organizations in the past.
Obois said this was the second year that the restaurant has done the Great Pumpkin contest. He added large letters to the pumpkin informing patrons what it was about. He said the reason for doing this contest was that he wanted people to be in a giving mood for the holidays.
Obois, and Fitz’s On The Lake, is now doing another guessing contest to once again benefit Reach Out Lodi. Obois filled a fish tank with Christmas ornaments and placed it inside the restaurant by the entrance. He said he ran a similar contest last year.
“It had a good response last year,” Obois said.
Patrons are asked to guess how many ornaments are in the tank. Again, each guessed entry is at least a $2 donation. This contest will run through the end of the year, with a winner being selected on Jan. 1. Like the pumpkin contest, the winner whose guess is closest to the actual number will win a $50 gift card to the restaurant.
In year’s past, Obois has also used the fish tank for a Valentine’s Day contest. Obois said the reason for using the tank for contests is because he bought an extra tank for various food preparation during the summer months, but then has no general use for it during the fall and winter months.
For the past five years, Fitz’s On the Lake has also hosted a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser to benefit the Alzheimer Association.
Obois has also held this fundraiser for a few years at another restaurant, prior to buying Fitz’s On The Lake. Last year, he said the event raised about $5,000 as there were raffles, and corned beef and cabbage for sale.
He’s also made donations to Hope House of South Central Wisconsin — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent abuse and offer support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. The organization mainly serves Columbia, Sauk, Juneau, Marquette and Adams counties.
“The Hope House is always on my radar,” Obois said.
As far as the smaller contests at Fitz’s, Obois doesn’t set specific goals, knowing that people will give as often, and as much, as they can.
“I’d like to raise a few hundreds bucks,” Obois said of each of the guessing contests. “I want it to be spontaneous enough to where people say, ‘Oh, that looks like fun. Let’s enter.’”
Obois also wants people to stay engaged with the community. He said the main reason for doing the fundraisers and contests is to simply bring awareness to the various causes and charities within the surrounding communities.
“Every charity group that helps others is down right now. They need things more than ever, too,” Obois said. “People can forget that in these tough times. But if they see something spontaneous, they may take the time out. If people give once, it can then become a habit.”