Robyn Nielsen's father, Kip, was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. Like many, ALS was a disease in the abstract— something they'd heard of but never really understood. After the diagnosis, Robyn and her family delved into discovering how the disease works and how they could support Kip in his journey.
That same year, Robyn put together a Walk to Defeat ALS team in Milwaukee to surprise her father and shower him in love and hope.
"I reached out to friends and family to see who would join, and the response was overwhelming. I started looking for sponsors and made special 'Team Skippy' t-shirts," Robyn shared. "We ended up having a team of 89 people show up on Walk day."
Robyn also hosted a post-Walk Packer party at New Berlin Ale House where Team Skippy could gather, watch the game, share a meal, and spend time with Kip. Together, they raised $3,455 for the Wisconsin Chapter.
"If he (Kip) wasn't working, he was playing as hard as worked," Robyn laughed.
"He loved having his boat and motorcycle and spent any free moment he had with friends and family enjoying life." It's evident that Kip's drive and passion for keeping friends and family close are in Robyn as well. After their first Walk season, she set a goal to exceed the previous year's attendance.
In 2014, 201 people were on Team Skippy, and $4,655 was raised in Kip's name. After her father's passing in 2015, friends and family continued to work alongside Robyn to keep her father's memory alive.
"My brother and his family, Bryan, Lisa, Aubry & Kylie, my Mom & Step Dad, Tom & Cindy, and my boyfriend of 15 years, Joey, help me with everything along the way. And they even put with my craziness leading up to and during the event!"
Over the years, Team Skippy has raised $59,434 total, hosted up to 234 team members in a single year. Robyn has even reached out to sponsors and gathered support from local business; working with Olson's Outdoor Power & Equipment, Jack Daniels, Tito's Vodka, Elevated Insurance, and Parkland Landscape Management, her father's business, as team sponsors.
"I tell my team that as long they keep showing up, I'll keep doing it. It's a huge mix of people, and if I can bring them all together, why not keep going!"
To this day, the Milwaukee Walk to Defeat ALS is a must-attend event, and Robyn's Packer party remains a hit among attendees. Robyn encourages others to take part: "At the end of the day, it's so simple to get involved, and you've had fun while feeling great about what you're participating in."
Robyn Neilsen is a Milwaukee native and a Wisconsin Hometown Hero featured in our December 2021 issue of Here's What's Happening. Every year Skippy's Team walks in memory of Robyn's father, Kip Neilsen, and in support of our Wisconsin Families living with ALS.