Volunteering & Giving
October 8, 2014

Pennsylvania angler wins national ‘community hero’ contest

NBC’s TODAY show and Wells Fargo surprised Dale Ortmann of Manorville, Pennsylvania, with $50,000 and top honors in the Small Acts, Big Impact contest.

Small is HugeSM

Inspired by a donation from his wife’s grandfather, Dale Ortmann began collecting, repairing, and giving away fishing rods to children in March 2013.

Now Dale has introduced more than 350 children to fishing the Allegheny River in and around Armstrong County in Pennsylvania. And his efforts are drawing national attention.

He’s the winner of the TODAY show’s Small Acts, Big Impacts contest sponsored by Wells Fargo — selected from more than 600 community heroes nominated by TODAY show viewers and social media fans Sept. 4–18.

Michelle Lee, Wells Fargo’s lead regional banking president for the Northeast, Southern New Jersey Regional President Brenda Ross-Dulan, and Metro New York Area President Eleanor Willets surprised Dale live on TODAY Oct. 8 with a $50,000 donation to help him equip and teach even more children about fishing, the outdoors, and water safety.

Watch the video on TODAY.com.

“Because of you, children in your community are experiencing nature, learning to fish, and having fun,” Michelle told Dale as 20 Wells Fargo teammates wearing company colors and holding “Small is Huge” signs in the TODAY show crowd joined the cheers.

“I hope others around the country watch this, and are inspired to undertake similar initiatives,” she said. “At Wells Fargo, we believe that small acts such as yours are critical to the success of all the communities in which we serve. All across the U.S., we’re supporting nonprofits and causes that are making huge impacts in small ways in neighborhoods, cities, and towns.”

Dale and his wife, Shannon, hugged as soon as they heard Michelle’s news. “Oh my gosh,” Dale said, accepting the check. “Whoa. That’s a lot of [fishing] line. Thank you very much!”

From Sept. 4 to 18, Wells Fargo and TODAY had asked viewers and social media fans to spotlight community heroes whose small acts of generosity make a big difference in their communities.

As the contest winner, Dale won a trip to New York City and the opportunity to tell his story on TODAY. Shannon, who nominated him, told the TribLIVE website, “I am so proud of Dale. He is so humble, but deserves recognition.” The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also honored him Sept. 30 with a separate award.

Dale collects and refurbishes old fishing poles while sitting on his front porch overlooking the Allegheny. He and Shannon love showing children how to fish its waters. That includes everything from how to tie a hook, reel one in, and use flotation devices to stay safe on the river.

Jamie Moldafsky, Wells Fargo’s chief marketing officer, says the TODAY show contest and submissions echo the message at the heart of Wells Fargo’s Small is HugeSM advertising campaign. “Little by little,” Jamie adds, “we can do a lot to build and strengthen our communities.”

Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC