By Drew Olson Special to Published Apr 03, 2009 at 2:25 PM

While recovering from a season-ending back injury this winter, Bucks center Andrew Bogut sometimes battled boredom by playing a few hands of poker at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

"I'm not that good," the 7-footer from Australia said during a recent interview. "I've been donating a lot of money to the people of Milwaukee."

Sunday evening, the people of Milwaukee will have a chance to turn the tables.

Bogut is hosting a charity reception and auction to benefit individuals and communities affected by the Victorian bushfires that swept through Australia earlier this year. The Victoria Bushfire Appeal Charity Night will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Woodland Dreams Ballroom.

Admission to the event -- which will feature complimentary hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar, an auction and appearances by Bucks players and coaches -- costs $60 and is limited to people over the age of 21.

Proceeds will go to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, which is being administered by the Australian Red Cross and Australian Government, and Bogut has pledged to match all donations from the event.

"By no means is a money-making scheme or anything like that," Bogut said. "I understand it's a tough time over here. A lot of Americans have their own problems here with the economy.

"I definitely have been fortunate enough to make a lot of money playing basketball. I just signed a long-term contract. I'm going to match the figure that we raise.

"I'm not pressuring people to put down something they can't afford. I just thought it would be nice to try and get some people and some Bucks fans together and try to help some people back there (in Australia). There are thousands of people in Australia right now that are relying on the generous support of other people to get through a very tragic time in their lives."

Dubbed "The Black Saturday bushfires," the blaze began in early February claimed 173 lives, injured 500 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and burned more than 1.1 million acres of farmland and forests. It was the worst natural disaster in Australia in a century.

"It was a crazy time," Bogut said. "It was 20 minutes from my house. We had fires actually moving over 65 mph. People getting trapped in the middle of it with winds changing. A lot of people lost their homes."

Bogut was in Milwaukee during the event, but followed it closely on the Web and by talking to family members back home.

One particular story in an Australian newspaper caught his attention.

"I came across an article... there was a guy had a fire coming onto his porch and up the posts. He didn't have water near him, but he had a case of Pepsi Max. He fizzed up a couple cans and got the fire off the posts with Pepsi Max. Then, he ran in the back and had another case of a another soft drink and used it to put out the fire and save his house.

"It's a pretty interesting story. Out of all the heartache and turmoil, you hear a story like that and it kind of puts a smile on your face.

"I think he should be on all Pepsi's products, worldwide."

While there might not be a case of Pepsi Max on the auction block Sunday, guests will have a chance to bid on items such as a LeBron James jersey, Kobe Bryant's shoes and many Bucks items, some from Bogut's personal collection.

"I want the fans to be able to get some personal things," Bogut said. "Stuff that's not available every day."

Although a tragic event that prompted the gathering, Bogut hopes the mood will be light and enjoyable rather than somber.

"I really want people to come in, relax, maybe have a drink and have a good time," he said. "I know there is an Australian community in Milwaukee and there is one in Chicago. Hopefully, they can come up and support it.

"It has been tough for me, not being in Australia. A lot of times, people forget I'm here (in the US) because I'm not there every day like a lot of athletes and celebrities. I want to help, and I'm very grateful for the support of my team and the Greater Milwaukee community in coming together to help raise money for people in my other home, Australia."


Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.