Jim Woster

Jim Woster

I wrote one time about the annual Law Enforcement and Charity Game Feed, which was conducted just two weeks ago in Sioux Falls. Gene Abdallah started the event 38 years ago in a basement, and it was attended by about 25 people. It featured a bit of pheasant, duck, venison, libations and conversation.

This year over 2,000 people attended, the cuisine was again wild game but offered about 15 additional choices. There was one more “difference” at the 2019 game feed, and that was the absence of Gene Abdallah. We lost Gene Nov. 2, and folks we truly lost an amazing individual. In fact, this year’s speaker, Brett Favre, the Hall of Fame quarterback, commented, “I have met thousands of so called important people over my lifetime. I truly wish I had been given the opportunity to meet this guy.”

It has been my privilege to serve as the master of ceremonies for the past 25 years, and with that developed a relationship that transitioned from casual acquaintance to a wonderful friend. I must confess that all I did was run the program. Sen. Abdallah did all of the rest, and that was often difficult and challenging but he did it and did it superbly.

Again this year some $35,000 was given to charities such as Ronald McDonald House, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network and LifeScape Children’s Services. The evening ended, as it always does, when the Bill Janklow family presents the South Dakota lawman of the year. The late Governor Bill also loved those who keep us safe.

If you note the moniker, senator, he was just that serving for several terms. Gene also served as a deputy sheriff in our county, a U.S. federal marshall for many years and closed out his law enforcement career as the head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Gene Abdallah loved law enforcement and backed that up with thousands of hours of personal labor, the end result being the annual game feed.

Whenever I attempt to explain what this event means to those who protect and serve, I employ an incident at a Yankton, South Dakota convenience store about 20 years ago. Heading for Norfolk to speak, I stopped for a soda. The lady behind the counter asked if I happened to be Jim Woster and if so, would I be the emcee again for the game feed? When my reply was affirmative, she continued, “My husband is a deputy sheriff, and we go every year. It is the one time each year that we know that he is appreciated for what he does.”

That one comment truly says it all. Will the game feed continue to be that event, which honors each and all in law enforcement – thus continuing the Abdallah inspired mission? Although it has not been officially discussed, I will simply say, “You can bet the farm that it will.”

I’m proud to tell the reader that my Sioux Falls friends continue to inquire as to the “situation on the farm.” The past couple of weeks, those folks have added: “I so hope they are able to enjoy just a little their Thanksgiving.” I would add they are sincere. I think it important that those of you who have endured this once-in-a-lifetime year know that even though there is little a Sioux Falls citizen can do to ease your burden, they truly care.

On the topic of Thanksgiving, it has been a long time since the entire Penny and Jim family have been together for the holiday. Certainly, they almost always come for our summer gathering at Thunderstik Lodge, but seldom Thanksgiving or Christmas. Folks, it has nothing to do with weather but rather those gosh darn in-laws, which has always left me wondering who was the person who decided our kids had to share holidays with another family in another town?

It is always a special time, even when those times are not the best. The reason is because we do, in fact, remember all that has been given us that is good.

In our family that “good” is way too lengthy for this column. From all of us in the Tri-State Neighbor family, may yours be a health filled and happy Thanksgiving.

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Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.