With fewer than 40 days until the new La Crosse Performing Arts Center opens its doors, the theater is still about $800,000 short of meeting its fundraising goal.
It was just about a year and a half ago when 11-year-old Katie Sauer of La Crosse performed in her first musical "The Wizard of Oz" at the La Crosse Community Theatre and fell in love with the stage.
But as much as she loves performing, she also loves taking a seat as an audience member, and when the new theater opens you can bet, she'll have a special seat to call her own.
As construction workers are busy drilling all 450 seats into place at the performing arts center, Sauer can hardly wait for the theater to be finished so she can take a seat and watch a show.
“I like just watching the shows and having them tell a story on stage without really noticing it,” said Sauer.
But she doesn't want just any seat.
“It's pretty good,” Sauer said sitting in one of the theater’s chairs. “There's boxes in the way.”
She wants one with her own name on it.
“I liked the idea of having my own seat and so I just really wanted to buy one,” said Sauer.
So when the theater launched the "Name a Chair" campaign to help raise money for construction, Sauer set out to raise $1,000 all by herself to purchase her very own seat on the theater's main floor.
“I water a lot of plants for my grandmother when she's gone, and then I babysit, too, with my friends, and I get Christmas money and birthday money and stuff like that,” said Sauer.
Katie is the youngest donor a part of the "name a chair" campaign.
Executive director David Kilpatrick said her investment adds up to much more than cushions held together by a metal and wooden frame.
“They're making a lifelong commitment to the arts,” said Kilpatrick. “They're making a lifelong commitment to La Crosse. They want to be a part of something that's going to be here for all of their entire lives, and they want to get in on the ground floor.”
Katie won't find out which seat is officially hers for awhile, but just knowing she's left her mark on a place she loves make all of the hard work worth it.
“You know you're helping support the community theater and whenever you want to come and see a show, you could probably come and sit in your seat to watch it,” said Sauer.
Sauer will pay off her chair in four yearly installments. She just made her first $250 payment this past weekend.
She's not the only one in her family buying a chair in the new theater. In total her family will have bought six chairs on the theater's main floor.
There are still about 300 seats left for sale. The price ranges anywhere from $250 to $1,000 dollars.
If you are interested in buying your own seat, contact David Kilpatrick at the La Crosse Community Theater at 608-784-9292.