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Inaugural Dairy Dash celebrates life of brother, student

Jennifer Janak Published on 11 September 2014

John Klossner

One Sunday morning this past spring as the rain continued to fall and the sun was nowhere in sight, family, friends and peers of John Klossner trudged through the muddy grasses of the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus for the Inaugural Dairy Dash.

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They were headed to the philanthropic 4K race that was held in memory of John, a brother of Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity’s Madison chapter, who tragically passed away last August from a brain injury suffered at the state fair.

John had just completed his freshman year of college.

“[The fraternity] philanthropy event was always a hog roast, but that was a ton of work,” Matt Olson, member of AGR, says. “After John’s accident, the fraternity really became close and brainstormed different ways to remember John.”

Olson and four other members of the fraternity came up with the commemorating event in January. In two months’ time, the men of AGR had filled out forms and other permit applications and were ready to begin fundraising.

Sponsors for the event included the Badger Dairy Club, the Association of Women in Agriculture (AWA), Badgerland Finance and New Glarus Brewing Company, among many more local businesses. Forty donors who were not registered sponsors participated as well.

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racers in inaugural dairy dash “Not going to lie, it was a lot of work, especially in such a short amount of time,” Olson says. “I was surprised by the amount of support by the community through sponsorship and participation; they went above and beyond to help out.”

Through T-shirt sales, registration and donations, the fraternity raised $3,130 for the Brain Injury Association of America.

The organization plans to use the benefits to advance brain injury prevention, research, treatment and education and to also improve the quality of life for anyone impacted by brain injuries, says Olson.

John’s family was touched by the generosity and support of the community, in particular the members of AGR and other students on campus.

“[John] really immersed himself in that first year of college,” Kristin Klossner, John’s older sister, says. “We were really thankful that they would consider doing that in his name.”

More than 170 runners came to show their support on April 27, dressed in layers as the wind continued to blow and the chill ached their bones – but a number that doesn’t begin to reflect how many lives John touched.

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Aside from becoming fully engaged and welcomed into the college scene, John was an avid dairy showman and admired by many in the industry.

The Klossners grew up on a dairy farm outside of New Glarus, Wisconsin, but sold their herd when John was still young.

dairy dash finish line “He was the one that really kept our roots in the dairy industry,” Kristin says. “He still wanted to show heifers and be involved.”

John first began showing in 4-H and FFA at a very young age and then proceeded to join the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association, where he became a leader in the organization.

An accomplished dairy judge, John led his team to the national competition in Louisville, Kentucky, where they placed first.

Larry Nelson, executive director for the Wisconsin Holstein Association, had the privilege of knowing John through his leadership role as secretary for the Junior Activities Committee. In this position, John had a knack for working with youth and encouraged other members to become more involved and grasp every opportunity available.

“His honesty, sincerity, hard work ethic and willingness to help anyone were qualities that other junior members quickly picked up on,” Nelson says. “Many junior and adult Holstein members mourned his passing as we knew we lost one of the good ones.”

Nelson believes that John’s legacy in the dairy industry will live on for years to come.

The Klossner Trophy has been established and will be awarded each year to the overall winner of the Junior Dairy Premier Exhibitor Contest at the Wisconsin State Fair. A traveling trophy will be awarded along with a nameplate that will be on display at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

The contest is comprised of a judging and showmanship contest, quiz and skillathon. John had been the top individual in the judging and skillathon portion of the contest.

Kristin lightly jokes that her brother was a plethora of knowledge about the industry.

“Becoming the overall winner of this competition was on John’s bucket list,” Nelson says. “We feel there is no better way to carry his legacy on in the dairy industry than at the event he was the most passionate about.”

dairy dash organizers

Whether in the show ring or on campus, John made a deep connection with everyone that he met, always bringing a smile to their face. He was the entertainment and never disappointed. Students who hardly knew John and good friends, alike, welcomed the idea of the 4K race and were eager to participate.

“The connections that he was able to make were wonderful,” Kristin says. “I think that’s what brought so many people this first year to the Dairy Dash.”

The event concluded with music and congratulations as participants crossed the finish line. Olson says hosting the Dairy Dash has brought the fraternity closer together and created a stronger relationship with John’s family.

“From the funeral to the Dairy Dash, we felt the connection growing, but after the Dairy Dash, it has just exploded,” Olson says. “John’s parents, family, siblings and closest friends were so appreciative for what we did that they couldn’t even express it in words.”

The AGR fraternity plans to continue hosting the Dairy Dash each year in memory of their former brother, John. They are humbled to see the outcome of this event and look forward to what future years have in store all because of John’s lasting impression on so many.

“We don’t even know the full extent of what his impact was,” Olson says. “In who he was, he forever changed our lives.” PD

Jennifer Janak is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities and a Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

PHOTOS
PHOTO ONE: John Klossner of New Glarus, Wisconsin, tragically passed away from a brain injury. The Dairy Dash was established in his memory. Photo courtesy of AGR Fraternity.

PHOTO TWO: Racers prepare for the 4K, with one student dressed as a cow to motivate the runners.

PHOTO THREE: Proceeds from the Dairy Dash went to the Brain Injury Association of America.

PHOTO FOUR: Organizers of Dairy Dash congratulate the participants as they cross the finish line. Photos courtesy of Philip Krahn.

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