The Chippewa Falls Humane Association raised money through a murder mystery

Raffle, silent auction and murder mystery dinner show all part of annual fundraiser


Photo by Brittany Walczak

Some of the Humane Association board members dressed in costume for the annual murder mystery event.

When an organization has an annual fundraiser, it’s difficult to keep it interesting and encourage people to come back each year.

The Chippewa Falls Humane Association found a way to both raise money and have fun. Each spring, they host a fundraiser to help support their animals while also entertaining their donors.

This year, their theme was “Murder Mystery in Sin City,” an event that included a murder investigation with a dinner show and gaming tables. Along the edge of the room, a raffle and silent auction also took place.

Deb Newman, board president of the Humane Association, said this fundraiser has been happening for over 15 years.

“It used to just be an open bar and music,” Newman said. “Then I went to a murder mystery show and liked the idea, so we decided to include it in our event.”

Karen Scarseth, another board member, added that the fundraiser has a different theme every year. Past themes have included St. Patrick’s Day, sports, movies and many others.

“This event and our September dog-walking event are our only major fundraisers,” Scarseth said. “Since at least the fire 13 years ago, we’ve been having the spring event.”

The fire Scarseth is referring to is when the old Humane Association building burned down in January of 2005. The disaster was a tragedy for both the organization and the community.

This year’s fundraiser was held at the Eagle’s Club in Lake Hallie. Raffle items donated by local businesses and community members lined one wall, while silent auction items lined the other. Signs on the dinner tables listed names of people and businesses that sponsored the event, many not for the first time.

The board members of the Humane Association and many community volunteers were responsible for putting together the murder mystery itself. The volunteers acting out the murder investigation met only a few times before the event, according to Newman.

“The actors meet, at first to pick a character, then to read through parts so we can be effective at our characters,” Newman said.

The actors help to lead the audience through the investigation, typically by dropping hints and bits of information.

“Some things they can just share with people,” Newman said. “Some things you have to bribe them to get, with real money. We donate that money to the shelter.”

The volunteers come from all over the community, including the UW-Eau Claire campus. Newman is the Associate Director of housing, and another of the actors is a recent Eau Claire graduate. The Director of Housing, Quincy Chapman, is also a part of the Humane Association board.

“This is my second year doing the fundraiser,” Chapman said. “I first heard about it through Deb Newman because we work together in housing, and she knows I have a love of dogs.”

Chapman added the community support of the event is “encouraging.” Many businesses, from veterinary clinics to builders to banks, also show support for the event and make sure the organization thrives.

The audience members that attend are also encouraged to dress up for the event, and think the fundraiser is “fun, and a great cause” as summed up by “Tourist Dads 1 & 2” — two audience members dressed as though it was their first time in Las Vegas.