John Stofflet wins ‘Be Like Mike’ Award for 18 years of Share Your Holidays

“(Share Your Holidays) is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my time here.”
NBC15 News’ John Stofflet has been a big part of every campaign since 2005 and helped it grow into a campaign that provides millions of meals to those in need.
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 7:07 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 7:49 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Every year, every barrel rollout, every Giving Tuesday, every Grand Finale provides unforgettable moments. This year, though, is extra special for many of us because the 2022 campaign is the last Share Your Holidays drive for one of the individuals who helped make the event what it is today.

“It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around the fact that this is the last one. But as I look back on it, it is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my time here.”

NBC15 News’ John Stofflet has been a big part of every campaign since 2005. He’s been committed to doing his part to rally his community around fighting hunger and carrying on the legacy of his predecessor and Share Your Holiday founder Mike McKinney.

John Stofflet receives the 2022 Be Like Mike award.
John Stofflet receives the 2022 Be Like Mike award.(NBC15)

“People said when I started here in 2005 that this is going to blow you away, and I’m like well, ‘I’m coming back from Seattle you know, we do fund raising drives and things,’ but this was bigger than anything I had seen, and especially the community stepping up and it just reminded me, I am back home in a place, southern Wisconsin, that cares about its neighbors. If they’re in need, people step up and help,” he continued.

Since John took the mic for the first time 17 years ago, the Share Your Holidays campaign grew multiple times over. Using the $10 = 25 meals metric of this year’s drive, the number of meals jumped nearly tenfold from around 650,000 meals in 2005 to the record-shattering approximately 6.34 million meals raised during 2020 drive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When John announced he would retire next summer, the writing was on the wall: This would be his last Share Your Holidays as a member of the NBC15 News team.

While a four-decade long, Emmy-winning career will certainly earn him many plaudits, it’s the nearly two decades of commitment beyond the anchor chair and to some of his community’s most vulnerable people that deserves recognition now.

That’s why everyone at WMTV could not have been prouder to learn this year’s ‘Be Like Mike’ award would go to the man who handed out so many.

The award is named after NBC15 Share Your Holidays to Eliminate Hunger Campaign founders Mike McKinney and Mike Hart. The late McKinney was an NBC15 News anchor and Hart was with the Wisconsin National Guard when they started the campaign in 1996.

(Of course, while picking him was an easy choice, the hard part came next when we tried to keep it a secret so everyone could see the moment he found out live when it happened.)

Following a retrospective about John's contributions to Share Your Holidays over the years, he gets the big surprise.

Finding Inspiration at Home

John Stofflet with his mother, Rita.
John Stofflet with his mother, Rita.(John Stofflet)

The lesson about the importance of fighting hunger came at a very early age, when John’s mother, Rita, would recount her own childhood. Sadly, Rita passed away just last month at 101 years old.

“When her memory was fading, I would ask her: what’s the first thing you remember? And she would say being hungry,” John remembers. He talked about many of Rita’s childhood meals that were nothing more than onion sandwiches or potatoes and onions.

Seven-year-old Rita wearing her communion dress, in 1927.
Seven-year-old Rita wearing her communion dress, in 1927.(John Stofflet)

In a picture he shared from 1927 when Rita was showing off her first communion outfit, he could still see the hunger pangs underneath her pretty dress.

Still, he said, Rita was able to make it through thanks to the kindness of the people around her. He points out that generosity went beyond giving Rita a better future, one that saw her son go on to help so many others who are hungry – and for her grandkids to plot their own course.

Rita celebrates her 100th birthday in 2020.
Rita celebrates her 100th birthday in 2020.(John Stofflet)

“She never forgot what it was like to be hungry and was just so joyful to be in a position later in life to be able to send a check to feed somebody else, so she’ll be right there… next to my heart,” John added.

Also, right next to his heart as he was being presented with the award was a check. He pulled it out of his pockets just moments after being surprised to learn he won and told viewers how, “In my pocket is a check from a viewer in memory of my mom and she said make sure it goes to Share Your Holidays. So, thank you Mary Lou, appreciate it.”

"My mother's going to be very surprised because I'm speechless," John Stofflet said as he paid...
"My mother's going to be very surprised because I'm speechless," John Stofflet said as he paid tribute to her during the 'Be Like Mike' award presentation.(NBC15)
NBC15 late anchor Mike McKinney accepts a donation at the first NBC15 Share Your Holidays in...
NBC15 late anchor Mike McKinney accepts a donation at the first NBC15 Share Your Holidays in 1996.(wmtv)

Share Your Holidays was born as a one-day food drive in a grocery store parking lot in 1996. It was then-anchor McKinney’s passion that no one should experience what he did as a child, growing up hungry.

What began on that cold winter day 26 years has grown more than McKinney, who died in 2006, may ever have dreamed. Blossoming from a campaign that found success in the thousands of meals in a year to one that, with your help, brings millions of meals to members of the southern Wisconsin.

“This means the world to me,” John said after learning he won. “You know when I started here, it’s like ‘how do I follow in Mike’s footsteps?’ To know that even if they were smaller than Mikes, we made a difference is really the capstone of a career thanks to all of you who have stepped up.”

About his role in helping build that success, John simply says, “I’m proud to have been a part of it, to continue this legacy of Mike’s” Everyone here at WMTV is proud of you too, John. Congratulations on this well-deserved 2022 Be Like Mike award. You earned it.

A look back at the posters Share Your Holidays since John Stofflet joined the effort.
A look back at the posters Share Your Holidays since John Stofflet joined the effort.(WMTV/Second Harvest)

Previous Winners

Year
2021Kathy GreenAlliant Energy
2020Joe HenricksM3 Insurance
2019Katie FreemanHo-Chunk Gaming Madison
2018Mark MillerTwo Men and a Truck
2017Ken Dickson and Sue Steinmetz
2016Food Fight Restaurant Group
2015Barbara McKinney
2014Megan (Cabalka) Wencel (Neckerman Insurance Services)
2013Richard Hare American Family Insurance
2012Dean Health PlanOscar Mayer / Kraft Foods (since 1998 as sponsor, Weinermobile, volunteers, food drive)
2011TDS Telecommunications Corporation
2010NBC15
2009Potter Lawson
2008Dan Wanta (UW Health Sports Medicine Center
2007Tim Metcalfe (Metcalfe’s Sentry Foods)
2006Rico Goedjen (Econoprint)Verona High School
2005Rico Goedjen (Econoprint)Mary Jo Naglus (WI National Guard)
2004Mitch Eveland (Pick n Save)Ted Ballweg (Alliant Energy Center)
2003Mike McKinneyMike Hart (WI National Guard)