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Everyday Heroes 2015

Bunco queen

St. Charles resident funnels energy into breast cancer fundraiser

Nora Kohlert has, in a way, two full-time jobs.

One earns her a living – she’s the office manager of a dental office in St. Charles – and the other raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

She and four other women – Tia Oliver, Leigh Orchard, Jeannine McDonald and Jenny Schneider – have spent the past several years organizing an event another group of women started 12 years ago: Elburn Bunco for Breast Cancer.

“It is a full-time job,” Kohlert said.

Held in October, the two-day event features 208 bunco players each night, Kohlert said. In addition to charging $25 per player, she said, the event makes money through sponsorships and gift basket raffles.

Kohlert this year assembled about 100 gift baskets for each night, she said.

“It’s just fun to do,” she said. “My basement turns into a pink basket-making basement.”

Geneva resident Bill Johnson, who has known Kohlert for many years, nominated her as an Everyday Hero because of her dedication to the bunco fundraiser. The hours she devotes to it “amazes” him, especially since she is fully employed by Dickens, Mason & Kissell D.D.S., he said.

“I give her so much credit for keeping this together,” Johnson said, noting he has watched the fundraiser grow.

Kohlert, a longtime St. Charles resident, first became involved with the event as a player, she said.

It was a “no-brainer” to join the planning team because of her ties to those with cancer, she said, noting a close friend’s mother has battled the disease. She has also participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago four times, she said.

Planning for the bunco fundraiser begins in January with discussions about ways to improve the event and the start of contacting companies for donations, Kohlert said.

She begins collecting the donations in the St. Charles and Geneva area in June, she said, and registration for players opens in July.

Last year, the event raised about $30,000 – an amount she said they didn’t know how they would top. But, she and her team did, raising $34,000 in two nights last month.

Cumulatively, she said, the event has generated about $219,000 since its inception.

“It’s been a very successful thing,” Kohlert said.

She noted organizers had to turn people away this year but are reluctant to leave Lions Park in Elburn for a bigger venue because the Lions Club treats them well.

“It is so fun,” Kohlert said of the event, which lasts for about four hours. “These ladies have a great time.”

Since taking over the fundraiser seven years ago, Kohlert said the event has become a family affair. Her husband – who owns Kohlert Manufacturing in St. Charles – her mother and her daughters have participated in some way, she said.

Through his travels, Johnson said he has come to know certain people who stick in his mind. He said Kohlert – who he described as an inspiration and mentor – is one of those people who leaves a lasting impression.

“Her heart is so big,” he said.

The Kohlert lowdown

Who she is: Nora Kohlert, an organizer for the Elburn Bunco for Breast Cancer event

Town of residence: St. Charles

Age: 47

Family: She and her husband of 24 years, John, have two daughters, Ashley, 21, and Michelle, 17, and two poodles.

Hobbies: Fundraising

Fun fact: She was born in Iceland.

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