Celebration of Hope

Celebration of Hope is an online fundraising website, a way for individuals to apply for financial assistance and one of the easiest ways to raise money for a loved one in need. We offer hope, one person at a time.

A Celebration of Hope fundraiser can provide hope and lets those battling a tough condition know that they are loved and are not alone in their journey. A fundraiser can give them hope that they are not alone and allow them to focus their energy on getting well.

Friends and family can benefit whether they live near or far. Starting a fundraiser can immediately make an impact by making it easy to donate and quickly spread the word. Well wishes, prayers or a note of encouragement are also easy to send to the recipient.

Celebration of Hope, Inc. was created after Carol Brauer lost her mother–and life-long best friend--January 1, 2013. Blessed with having a close, loving relationship with her 87-year-old mother, Joyce Asmus, Carol felt that bond become even stronger as she strove to find more ways to help during Joyce’s final six months’ courageous battle with Large B Cell Lymphoma.

During a struggle lasting more than a year before her mother died, Carol searched to determine what her purpose on earth truly was. Finally, inspired to enlist the advice of an expert and, she says, "I began working with a personal life coach because I really felt there was some special and, as yet, unknown reason I’m here. I really did not know what God’s purpose for me was. People were telling me I was already doing what I was meant to do, but I felt there had to be something else out there, too."

Giving back to her community and helping others has always been a major part of Carol’s life.

Carol, who has owned the Appleton based home-care company, BrightStar Care since 2006, supported a fundraiser a friend started to help a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer---and no insurance. At a weekly staff meeting, she shared how wonderful it would have been if they could have helped that woman by paying a month’s rent as a way to remove one stressor, allowing her to focus her energy on getting well.

A couple months later, Carol learned about a young couple from her church in Fremont that was making many trips back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee due to the illness, and eventual death, of their infant son.

Again, she wondered: "Could I have helped this family by providing gas cards?"

The word "HOPE" was a constant thought for Carol and the purpose of her life was becoming clearer. During Leadercast 2013, Carol heard a presentation given by internationally known speaker, Pastor, and author, John Maxwell, who defined leading as "adding value to people every day". Those words really resonated with Carol. Maxwell went on to talk about putting others and their needs first, and to serve others. He ended by saying that, instead of waiting for someone else to do it, each of us needs to stand up and do it! Again, words resounded with Carol and had an "aha" moment: "I felt that God wanted me to stand up and add value to people around me and I needed to do it!"

On a summer night in 2013, while she and husband Dick sat at their kitchen counter, eating ice cream sundaes with their good friend and pastor, Paul Fritz, Carol shared her thoughts about starting a non-profit to help others. Encouraged to follow her dream, the three of them agreed that the word "Hope" needed to be part of her non-profit’s name and purpose.

They brainstormed various names containing the word "hope" and not until a couple days later after talking to her good friend, Bobbie Thompson, she knew it would be "Celebration of Hope"!

During the past year, working with these good friends, Carol watched, as her dream became a reality. Her passion to help others in her community has blossomed into the new, not-for-profit venture, and is now a reality called Celebration of Hope, Inc.

We offer hope, one person at a time.

A hope that is incomprehensible, easing the burden of despair and confusion.

A hope borne of the encouragement, love, and concern for their suffering, offered by friends, family, and even strangers…

… the Mystery of Community.

Celebration of Hope, Inc. is a Christian charity with a mission of providing financial assistance and fundraising opportunities to any individual in need, lending a hand of support by sharing the burden and offering hope.

Carol Brauer

Carol Brauer

Celebration of Hope Founder and President

Carol is Celebration of Hope’s Founder and President and brings her passion to help others in need.  She has been a volunteer for various organizations since the 1980s.  She has owned BrightStar Care of Appleton/Fox Cities and Waupaca areas for the past eight years and prior to that worked in the hospitality industry for almost thirty years.  Helping and serving others has always been a natural part of Carol’s life and starting Celebration of Hope she carries her Christian values and heartfelt passion for bring hope to those in need, as she partners with others who share her desires.

When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two dogs and two cats.  They rescued one of their dogs from the Fox Valley Animal Shelter in 2009 and both cats were outdoor rescues that found them in 2010 and 2011.  

Her work experience as well as her volunteer experiences will be valuable  in leading the way to bringing hope to others by fulfilling our mission of providing financial assistance and fundraising opportunities to any individual in need, lending a hand of support by sharing the burden and offering hope.

She believes together we can and do make a difference!  We will offer hope, one person at a time.

"People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care" - John Maxwell

Barbara Rhode

Barbara Rhode

Celebration of Hope Secretary

For the last 35 years Barbara has been employed with an investment firm as a Client Associate in Fond du Lac, WI.  She has a Bachelor of Education from National College of Education and was an elementary teacher in her early career.


Barbara has served as secretary on the Fond du Lac Adult Literacy Services board for the past 16 years and has also been a tutor.  She also delivers Mobile Meals to shut-ins.


Barbara is very active at St. Luke’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Oakfield, WI.  She teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir and volunteers in the office several hours per week.


Barbara’s most treasured times of her life was raising her four children with her deceased husband and currently being active in her 12 grandchildren’s lives.

Susan R. Pruss, CPA

Susan R. Pruss, CPA

Celebration of Hope Treasurer

Sue is a life-long resident of WI.  She graduated from UW-Oshkosh with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting.   Straight out of college she worked for the National Accounting Firm of Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and obtained her CPA certification in 1982.  She is currently employed with Wisconsin Financial Group and founder of Secure Financial Solutions, LLC.     Recently Sue was selected as one of four financial representatives from the state of Wisconsin to travel to Washington, D.C. to talk to Congress about serious financial issues facing Americans today.  She is passionate about educating and helping people secure their financial future.  

Sue serves as Treasurer of the Celebration of Hope Board of Directors.  In addition Sue also currently serves on the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Annual Women’s Golf & Luncheon Benefit Committee and has served as a member of many fund raising committees throughout her life.

Sue is excited about Celebration of Hope and feels that giving back to the community and helping others is fundamental to our community.   As Sue says, “Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their life, but knowing where to look isn’t always that easy.  That’s why this organization is so important as it gives people a place to go for hope and help when they need it most.”

Sue is the proud mother of two adult daughters and three step-children and is married to the love of her life, Jerry.

Tina Andrew

Tina Andrew

Celebration of Hope Board Member

Tina A. Andrew is employed by Thrivent Financial as a Senior Compliance Analyst at their operations center in Appleton, WI. Tina holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree - Finance from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

Tina has watched several close relatives lose their battle to cancer and has seen first-hand the trials and tribulations a family endures during these difficult times. She looks forward to the opportunity of being involved with Celebration of Hope, Inc. and helping others feel a little less pressure during a difficult time. Tina has volunteered her time to many different events and causes over the years and has a passion for helping others.

Tina has been married to her loving husband Mike for over 20 years and together they have two children, Logan and Killian. Tina and Mike have resided in Appleton, WI since 2001 and love the area. Tina feels that helping individuals in the Fox Valley through her involvement with this charity is truly a blessing.

Katie Blom

Katie Blom

Celebration of Hope Board Member

Katie Blom is Managing Partner at Epiphany Law, LLC, an Appleton-based law firm specializing in business law, estate planning, and litigation. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with Honors from St. Norbert College and her Juris Doctorate from The University of Wisconsin Madison Law School.

Katie focuses primarily on complex business transactional matters, commercial real estate and development, mergers and acquisitions, contracts, and franchising. She also specializes in succession planning and asset protection techniques. Additionally, Katie has extensive experience working with charitable organizations and assisting with IRS tax-exempt applications.

Katie is a long time resident of the Fox Valley and enjoys the wide variety of outdoor opportunities, short commute times, and the Green Bay Packers. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her son and daughter, traveling, fantasy football, and outdoor activities.

In my profession as an attorney, and sometimes in just turning on the news at night, there is so much arguing and negativity. It was an uplifting opportunity to join the Board for Celebration of Hope to celebrate life’s achievements, joy, and happy moments.

Diana Rost

Diana Rost

Celebration of Hope Board Member

Diana is the Director of Nursing at Fountain View Care Center in Ripon, Wisconsin.  She started her nursing career as a CNA, then LPN and later when her children were older went back to nursing school and proudly graduated as a Registered Nurse.  She has worked with the geriatric population in the Long Term Care setting the majority of her nursing career.  She and her husband Kenneth (Butch) reside in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Children and grandchildren consume much of the couple’s leisure time.  Summer days often find them at son, Christopher, and daughter-in-law, Lisa’s cabin in St. Germaine, WI where they enjoy sharing time with grandchildren Megan and Joshua.  Daughter Angela and husband Cory have three daughters- Kaitlyn, Jenna, and Anna-who take great pleasure in the time they spend in “Grandma’s Kitchen” preparing for the Farmers’ Market held Saturday mornings. 11-year-old Jenna is a cupcake aficionado with her own business, “Jenna B’s Homemade Sweet Treats” making personalized cakes and other goodies.

Diana’s work experience and love of family enhance those well-known nurse’s nurturing and caring attributes she will bring to Celebration of Hope. She has helped with a variety of past fundraisers and enjoys the outlet for her creativity those times provide.  Knowing the importance of teaching the younger generations the value of helping others not as fortunate, she has included her grandchildren in a number of those events. Diana is looking forward to helping her sister, Carol Brauer, and the others serving on the Board of Celebration of Hope.

Ashley Schmit

Ashley Schmit

Board Member

Ashley Schmit

Owner / Photographer/ graphic artist raphic Artist

Ashley Schmit, after graduating from UW-Whitewater in 2006, with a degree in photojournalism, is our second full-time photographer and Debbie’s partner in the business. Living in Appleton, with her cat, Bindi, Ashley enjoys art, music and time with friends and family in her free time. A good concert or outrageous road trip are never too far off in Ashley’s weekend plans.

She and Debbie have been working side-by-side ever since Ashley’s graduation from Freedom High School in 2002. She had taken part ownership in the studio over six years ago and the long-time partnership between Debbie and Ashley has made our talent pool unmatched. Handling office tasks and the computer graphics end of the studio, on top of the regular photography work, Ashley has been an excellent addition to the Debbie Daanen Photography team. Ashley’s unique style is the perfect compliment to Debbie’s own unprecedented methods.

Ashley, with her artistic talents, clear eye on trends, and background in journalism, has a definite bright future ahead of her. The dynamic duo of Debbie Daanen and Ashley Schmit, make an excellent team; in and out of the camera room.

Wendy Gildert

Wendy Gildert

Account Executive

Wendy is a longtime resident of Appleton and has been employed at Insight Publications LLC as an account representative since September 2008. Even though she was never able to have children of her own, Wendy has been involved with many organizations that help kids. She has been a Big Sister three times and has served on the board of directors for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in both Manitowoc and the Fox Cities.


In her spare time, Wendy enjoys chasing her favorite past time, IndyCar racing. After living in Indianapolis for four years, she got hooked on the speed and excitement. Wendy has attended the Indy 500 since 1983 and enjoys bringing new people to experience the action each May. Her goal for retirement is to travel to each venue and attend the races across the U.S. and Canada.


Wendy is the proud “pet parent” of three cats. For years she argued that if you’re single, you can’t have more than two cats or you become the “crazy cat lady.” But last fall, two strays adopted her and she now proudly lives up to the title! Wendy has volunteered for fund raisers for the East Shore Humane Association for many years and believes that all animals should find a loving home.


After attending her first board meeting for Celebration of Hope, she discovered why there is a box of tissue on the conference room table. “There are so many sad stories of people needing help out there. If I can help touch even one life, it’s worth it,” Wendy says. “I look forward to helping provide hope to these amazing people.” Wendy firmly believes in the “pay it forward” way of life and tries to promote positivity as much as she can.