Honky Tonk Hustle: A stewardship story

For Baker Tilly team members, protecting and being responsible for one another is something we take very seriously. The minute one of us, or a family member, needs support and care, we rally ‘round.

When the daughter of Partner Russell Wolff was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2012, our people pulled together – and are still doing it today.

This stewardship story is the story of Aly Wolff.

You likely haven’t heard of neuroendocrine cancer. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare, accounting for less than one percent of all malignant disorders in the United States. It is estimated that 2,000 new cases occur in the United States each year, and unfortunately the number of new cases is on the rise.

Awareness and funding for research into such a rare cancer continues to be a challenge.

When Russ’ daughter Aly was diagnosed in 2012, the prognosis was not encouraging. Because the disease is often symptom-free, it is generally inoperable when discovered. After they discovered four tumors on her liver, doctors estimated she had a year to live with treatment.

Aly had just started college.

She and two friends had just bought tickets to see Justin Bieber perform in Milwaukee when she received her diagnosis. Her friends attempted to get Bieber to meet Aly at the October concert through social media but were unable to do so because they didn’t begin until hours before the concert.

They were then determined for Aly to meet the singer and started the large Twitter campaign #BiebsMeetAly in an effort to get Bieber to meet her at a Chicago concert. The second attempt exploded on social media and was followed by thousands of people, including local celebrities and Green Bay Packers like Donald Driver. She eventually met the singer.

But the #BiebsMeetAly campaign was the start of something much bigger.

From the day of her diagnosis, Aly was determined to help others suffering from cancer and became passionate about bringing awareness to neuroendocrine tumors and raising money for cancer research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center – where she was treated. She felt she was given her diagnosis for a reason, so she wanted to do something to make a difference, and that is exactly what she did. As she worked on realizing this goal, Aly joined the Baker Tilly team as a member in our human resources group in Madison, Wisconsin.

In February 2013, Aly spearheaded a fundraising event to raise money for cancer research: Aly’s Honky Tonk Hustle. Aly passed away on April 22, 2013, just four weeks before the first annual event. She was 20.

Aly handed the torch to her wonderful family, and to her Baker Tilly family in Madison, who have been integral in helping The Aly Wolff Foundation, Inc., established in her name, develop the event. Aly’s sister, Baker Tilly team member Tanya Brake, says, “Baker Tilly is our biggest sponsor and has done so much to encourage team member contributions, through soliciting volunteers and race registrations.”

Many Baker Tilly volunteers have donated time and energy to get the Honky Tonk off the ground.

“We can’t thank Baker Tilly enough for honoring Aly and helping us expand the awareness of this cancer. Three years after her death, the money raised by the Honky Tonk Hustle is giving hope to so many,” Tanya says.

Now in its fourth year, the team from the Aly's Honky Tonk Hustle has reached its goal of raising $500,000 to further research at UW's Carbone Cancer Center. Each year, hundreds came out to events that include a 5k Run/Walk and a Honky Tonk after-party. The fundraising has directly supported research at the Carbone Center that doctors say could be game-changing. The research team is the first in the world to discover how to grow neuroendocrine tumors in the lab. Progress could lead to new treatments and better outcomes for patients, and the fundraisers also have led to a new clinical trial.

For more information on Aly and Aly’s Honky Tonk Hustle, visit www.alyshonkytonkhustle.com.