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King of the 8th annual Emerald Ball is a familiar and formidable presence at Gundersen and an unwavering supporter of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®: David Amborn. Joining him as Queen is his long-time partner, Karen Gilster, executive director for Wisconsin Land Title Association and president of the West Salem Hockey Association.

David Amborn and Karen Gilster

Having David and Karen reign over the Emerald Ball is a fitting honor on the eve of David’s retirement in June, after 28 years at Gundersen Health System. David joined Gundersen in 1988 to work with the then-fledgling Children’s Miracle Network (Hospitals was added to the name years later).

“After I was hired, I had just 100 days to put together my first telethon—a 21-hour broadcast from Valley View Mall. It was a daunting task but everyone rallied around to help me. CMN was still in its infancy but we managed to raise $97,000 that first year,” David recalls with pride.

This was the start of what David calls his “dense web of resources.” He explains, “I was establishing relationships in the community and media, and developing support systems for the families. I take the most pride in the relationships I’ve forged through CMN Hospitals. Where we once helped dozens, we now help thousands.”

In 1992, David transitioned to Gundersen Medical Foundation where for the next 24 years he proved to be an effective leader, mentor, cheerleader and fundraiser. Despite moving away from the day-to-day operations of CMN Hospitals, David remained active as the chair of its steering committee which allocates funds…a position he still holds today.

“I’m excited to be here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of CMN Hospitals at Gundersen and to see us hit annual fundraising of about $1 million,” David explains. “I’m also proud that we help families throughout our 24-county service area. While the national policy is that all money raised locally stays local, we added ‘regardless of where the patient gets his or her care.’ It feels good and it feels right to help all kids in our area. In addition, 30 years ago the annual cap on allocations was $250 per family. Now it’s $3,000 per child. This kind of support really impacts people’s lives.”

David and Karen will be sharing the spotlight at the Emerald Ball with the 2015-16 CMN Hospitals Heroes. The Heroes are children who have benefitted from CMN Hospitals support and are now paying it forward as ambassadors for the cause.

“To be chosen as King of the Emerald Ball is a heck of a way to go out,” David delights. “I’m grateful for all the people who have lent a hand along the way. Truly remarkable people. We share and we celebrate together. That’s what CMN Hospitals and the Emerald Ball are all about.”


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La Crosse, WI 54601

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