AFS Volunteer Creates Tradition while Fundraising

November 11, 2011 -- An AFS host father and community leader creates a wonderful tradition while fundraising for AFS in the process. 

By : Keith Uhlig
Wausau Daily Herald

‚ÄčIn September of 1971 Ted Harenda found himself sitting the office of Gordon Connor Sr., asking him for a big slice of a log.

Connor was the head of Connor Forest Industries, and Harenda was explaining how he wanted the log to create a traveling trophy that would go to the winner of a football game between intercity high school rivals Wausau East and Wausau West.

Harenda had visions of the slab moving from school to school. It was a way to boost community spirit, play up the friendly rivalry that was just in its infancy and also pay homage to Wausau's history.

Connor liked the idea, and with Harenda sitting in his office, got on the phone to a worker out in the field. Connor explained what was needed, there was a pause, and then said, "Well, go cut one down, and have it here in two days."

It's just one of the anecdotes Harenda writes about in a short book he's put together called "The History of the Wausau Log." Harenda has been working on the book for months, and has a dozen or so copies printed. He'll give copies to both Wausau East and West high schools next week before the Log Game -- scheduled for Oct. 14.

The rest of the books will go to friends and family, but Harenda's also working out the details to have copies of the book available at Janke Book Store in downtown Wausau, probably selling for about $10.

Harenda, now 79 and living in Rothschild, moved to Wausau in 1968 with his wife, Dorothy, and their four children. He had been a vice president of a Milwaukee company that built automated sales systems, and his professional life was full of traveling across the country and the globe. He wanted a simpler life, more time with his family.

Harenda ended up as director of sales and marketing for Hammerblow Corp., and in 1970, his two oldest children, daughters Kim and Teri, attended the new Wausau West High School. They convinced Harenda and his wife that the family should play host to an American Field Service exchange student.

In August 1971, the family welcomed Tina Morales from Chile.

As Harenda got more involved in AFS, he came up with the idea of printing special programs for the second-ever East-West football game, to be sold for 25 cents as a fundraiser for the exchange program.

But he felt something more was needed to build excitement for the game. The family talked about it over dinner and decided a traveling trophy of some kind would do the trick.

From that, it didn't take long to come up with the Log.

"What is Wausau known for?" Harenda asks. "Wood. Trees. Lumber. All of the money in Wausau originated from trees, lumber."

Even though he had been in Wausau only a few years at the time, Harenda had developed extensive community connections and used them to get the trophy made, starting with Connor Forest Industries. Then Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. dried the log in its kiln. Hammerblow helped make the frame. Students at both high schools helped build the Log trophy.

For Harenda, the Log is a source of local pride, and that's why he wrote the history. He wanted the story of how it began preserved along with the trophy itself.

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