Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Man takes long ride for charity


Wearing a plain white hat with the words “MR. THANKSGIVING” emblazoned across the cap, Bob Vogelbaugh quietly sits, smiles and waves at passersby and children who see him sitting alone in a booth of Modern Woodmen Park’s Ferris wheel.
Vogelbaugh, a 73-year-old retired business owner and current crossing guard from Moline, has a family that grows by about 3,000 people each Thanksgiving. Along with a team of volunteers, turkey and assistance from donors, Vogelbaugh will host his 44th annual Thanksgiving dinner this year on Nov. 27.
In order to raise funds for this year’s event, he decided to take a more creative approach.
Vogelbaugh climbed aboard the Ferris wheel at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport Saturday, staying on for 13 hours, raising over $1,000. He plans to use the money to help fund the catering for the event.
“We wanted to give back to the community, so we were looking for someone that enjoys amusement rides,” said Mike Clark, assistant general manager of amusement at Modern Woodmen Park. “Mr. Thanksgiving, Bob, really loves the amusement industry, really loves Ferris wheels so we thought it’d be a perfect fit for him.”
Vogelbaugh first began his Thanksgiving dinners in 1970, when he owned a self-described “Mom and Pop” grocery store in downtown Moline.
“I had primarily elderly customers, and it was probably two weeks before Thanksgiving when I started asking them what they would be doing for the upcoming holiday,” said Vogelbaugh. “Almost everybody responded that it was just another day to be alone. I thought, ‘Why does anyone have to be alone on Thanksgiving?’ So I called my family in Moline and said ‘Mother, it’s going to be one less at your table this year. I’m going to have a Thanksgiving in my store.’”
Since the first year, his event has expanded from the small grocery store he owned in downtown Moline to its current venue in Moline’s SouthPark Mall. The event is open to the public, and attendees can make reservations through MetroLINK, which offers to pick up participants on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities free of charge.
“It’s not a charity dinner, but it’s people from all walks of life,” said Vogelbaugh. “It’s open to anybody, it’s not restricted. I don’t want to know your financial status. People love the atmosphere, and it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.”
Vogelbaugh’s ride will kick off a series of fundraising events held at the park this month, although no specific organizations have been specified.
“We wanted it to be more than just an amusement ride,” said Clark. “So what we’re doing this month in September every Saturday, any nonprofit organizations that are Quad Cities-based are welcome to come out and ride the Ferris wheel for as long as they’d like, and they’re welcome to collect donations as well,” Clark said.
For those interested in volunteering, no sign-up is necessary. Instead, Vogelbaugh instructs people to show up at SouthPark Mall at 3 p.m. on the 27th to receive a quick training in serving, and then begin working at 4 p.m.

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Man takes long ride for charity