Twice each year, Elmbrook Swim Club members trade in their swim caps and swimsuits for a uniform of hairnets, latex gloves and disposable aprons to make an impressive number of pizzas.
About 5,800 pizzas, to be more exact.
For the club's biannual pizza-making fundraiser, swimmers gathered Saturday at the Brookfield Senior Center to prepare an assortment of cheese, pepperoni, sausage and "meat lovers" pies, all in less than 10 hours.
The event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the club. Each of its 140 member families is required to provide at least one person to help get the job done, in addition to preselling a minimum of 60 pizzas.
Proceeds from pizza sales offset club fees for members and a portion is donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Wauwatosa. But that's not the only benefit for those involved.
"Part of the reason we do it is we feel it builds camaraderie within the club," said Mike Everson, better known as the "Pizza King" for his longtime involvement with the pizza fundraising committee.
It gives parents the chance to interact with other parents they might otherwise not get the chance to know, and it allows high school swimmers to work together toward a common goal, fellow committee member Mary Illgen agreed.
A bit of competitive spirit among the day's three shifts makes the process more interesting, as well.
"Second shift did about 2,100 pizzas," said Angela Illgen, 18, who has participated in the fundraiser for about five years. "Usually first shift is the one that's on top of it, but this year they were behind, and from then on second shift has to catch up and third shift has to finish up."
From the looks of the most recent fundraiser, their focused efforts make for an efficient operation.
During each three- to four-hour shift - staffed by 34 members and lead by a 12-person committee - volunteers are arranged into assembly lines, handling tasks such as placing directions and premade crusts on cardboard rounds, spreading sauce and toppings, and sealing pizzas before they are tallied and assorted for pick-up.
The club has been making pizzas similarly since the fundraiser began in the late 1980s in a 3 1/2-car garage near 99th Street and Bluemound Road in Wauwatosa, said George Haas, an Elm Grove trustee and former Elmbrook Swim Club parent.
Since then the club has purchased its own equipment, relocated to city facilities and increased the volume of pizzas it makes - now about 5,500 per fundraiser. But one thing that hasn't changed is the overall success of the fundraiser.
"Pizza-making was one of the few things we could do twice a year, year after year, and consistently bring in a lot of money for the club," Haas said.
Once people have tried an Elmbrook Swim Club pizza, they tend to purchase at least as many or more pizzas the next time around, he added.
Although many of the pizzas from the fall fundraiser have already been sold, the club will undoubtedly be ready to dive into another day of marathon pizza-making next spring.
"It's just so ingrained in the Elmbrook Swim Club culture," Mary Illgen said.
BY THE NUMBERS
ounces of pizza sauce needed to make the pizzas
pounds of cheese
pounds of sausage
pounds of pepperoni
diameter, in inches, of each pizza
cost to purchase a pizza from the club
AT A GLANCE
More information about the Elmbrook Swim Club:
The club has members ranging from age 6 to adult, drawing primarily from Brookfield and Elm Grove.
It was started as a recreational program supported by the Brookfield Parks & Recreation Department.
Brookfield still provides funding and the use of facilities for the program, which has become more competitive. Members are required to cover additional fees, which led to increased fundraising efforts.
Programming now focuses on three areas: competitive, educational and recreational.
Visit www.ebsc.org for details.
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