Rivalry for Good: A Story of Two Siblings Making a Difference Thanks to a Friendly Bet

With Halloween and Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror and Christmas on deck, the holiday season is upon us – and with it, the warm and fuzzy feelings of family, gratitude and giving back.

During the holiday season of 2012, an interesting donation arrived at Harbor House. A check for $50 from a Michael in Darien, IL, along with a note explaining that the gift was honoring a bet placed on the Packers vs Bears game. Our Executive Director wrote a thank you note along with a special “Go Pack Go!” message. Since that game, donations from Michael continued to arrive every time the Packers beat the Bears (which fortunately for us has been 9 out of the last 11 games).

“Michael began to feel like a pen pal,” stated Harbor House’s Executive Director, Beth Schnorr. “I looked forward to when the Packers would play the Bears and cheer a little more knowing that we get a letter and gift for the win!”

Earlier this season, the Packers played the Bears…and won. Michael came through once again and we decided it was about time we reach out to learn more about the story behind this ongoing bet. How did it begin? Who was the other person/persons involved in the bet? How did Harbor House get involved? We reached out, and he happily agreed to chat with us. We found out that we have his sister, Patty, to thank for this generosity!

How did this Bears vs Packers rivalry start?

Michael:I grew up in Appleton and attended UW-Madison. Upon graduating, I moved to Chicago and have lived there ever since. It was hard to not become a Bears fan. I will still watch the Packers when the Bears aren’t playing. My sister, Patty, still lives in Appleton and is a Packers fan. We have always had a friendly rivalry over the Bears and Packers.

When we chatted with Patty, she has a bit of a different take on Michael’s change over to becoming a Bear’s fan.

PattyWe were raised as avid Packers fans. In fact, at a young age I remember our Father getting a hotel room at the old Conway Hotel in downtown Appleton so we could watch the Ice Bowl game. I was young, but I remember packing a cooler, jumping on the hotel beds and watching the Packers play as a family.

Michael and I have always been close. It wasn’t until more recently that I even learned he was a Bears fan! I honestly was surprised that he had turned and became a Bears fan after us all having the upbringing as Packer fanatics. So I decided that we should place a bet on the upcoming game when the Packers were playing the Bears. Neither one of us wanted the other’s money, so we decided to pick a charity to receive a donation instead.


“The bet is a way that I am able to keep in contact with my sister and keep interest in the game…It’s a lot of fun, we really enjoy the rivalry.”


What prompted the idea to donate to the winner’s non-profit of choice?

Michael: To keep interest in the game, but more importantly I feel we have continued the bet to keep in contact with each other. I don’t see my sister as much as I used to, our friendly bet keeps us in contact and allows us to support great causes.

Patty: We were raised by parents who believed in giving back and I believe that is where the desire to give back comes from. When we placed our bet, neither of us wanted the other’s money so picking a charity whose mission meant something to us seemed like the right thing for us to do.

What is the organization receives donations when the Bears win?

Michael: When the Bears win, Patty writes a check to St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is a leading children’s hospital pioneering research and treatments for kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. My friend’s son-in-law was on the Board of Directors at St. Jude’s for a while. I actually had the chance to tour their Research Hospital in Tennessee and I was blown away by the amazing work and programming they offer kids.

Patty: I honestly don’t remember. (laughs) I haven’t had to write out that many checks. 😉

What was your first impression of Harbor House?

Michael:I have been so impressed that for every check I write, I have received a handwritten thank you note. Harbor House is a really great place, I love seeing your annual report and the work you guys are doing. Patty and I will have to find a time to come visit when I am in town again.

Patty: Harbor House has such a meaningful and important mission. I am a mother of three daughters and have always believed in the importance of family and instilling in my children the importance of a supportive family, but I know that is not the case for all children and women. During times of need, not all women and children have family members to turn to and that’s when Harbor House is there. One day, before I retired from my career at Fox Communities Credit Union, I was meeting with a woman who had come in with a friend to set up a new account. They had both utilized Harbor House for shelter and your services. They praised Harbor House for the support they received and how it helped them get where they are today. It was wonderful to see that they were doing so well and thriving.

What message do you have for someone who is thinking about ways to support local nonprofits?

Michael: Be creative, you don’t have to do anything fancy. We place bets for $50, it’s a friendly rivalry that my sisters and myself really enjoy. I feel good every time I donate. It is rewarding, in many ways, but especially to know that you are supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Patty: Sometimes all someone needs is a smile or a hug. Giving back doesn’t always mean something elaborate, it is the things that we may think are trivial that make such an impact.

How are you giving this holiday season? There are so many fun ways to incorporate giving into your daily life. Get creative and brainstorm ways to add giving into your family traditions. Pick a cause that is dear to you and support them this holiday. As for Michael and Patty, we know what team we are cheering for this Sunday as the Packers take on the Bears!