Since its inception in 1983, the Mogollon Sporting Association has provided struggling youth programs with much of their financial support.
That, however, is not the MSA's entire purpose. The organization is equally benevolent when it comes to funding local wildlife and habitat enhancement projects.
To raise the money necessary to continue its year-round efforts, MSA relies almost exclusively on its annual banquet, raffle and auction. The event is billed as a benefit, but it's also a spirited evening that has also grown to become one of the social highlights of the spring.
This year's banquet the 9th Annual will begin at 5 p.m. May 12 at the Mazatzal Casino.
Following the no-host cocktail hour, dinner either prime rib or stuffed chicken breast gets under way at 6 p.m. During the meal, several raffles will be held. An hour later, the evening really gets rolling with the lively auction and even more giveaways
On hand to oversee the evening's ceremonies will be Randy Roberson. Dave Yoke is slated to hold down the auctioneer duties.
The list of prizes and raffle/auction items to be sold or given away is an extensive one.
In past years, the bounty has included rifles, pistols, shotguns, fishing poles, muzzle loaders, archery equipment, camping gear, outdoor prints, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, automobile tires, professional sports tickets, cooking gear, wildlife mounts, travel vouchers, and gift certificates.
Simply put, the prize list is an outdoor person's dream.
According to MSA member Jack Koon, the association is continuing to accept donations for the auction and raffle but already has enough to ensure the association turns out its biggest and best bevy of merchandise.
On Koon's wish list for even more raffle/auction merchandise are a camp oven, backpack tent, bow case, meat smoker, range finder, tree stand, and camping furniture.
Among the most cherished prizes will be a Ruger 77-MK2 30.06 rifle and a 14K gold amethyst and diamond ring. The winner of a special early bird drawing will have their choice of either the rifle or jewelry. All banquet guests who purchase dinner tickets prior to March 31 will be automatically entered in the early bird drawing. Tickets bought before the deadline are $60. After that date, tickets are $75 and the bearers are not entered in the drawing. So, it's best to buy your tickets early and take your chances on winning the rifle or jewelry, Koon advises.
Call Wayne Morgan at 474-3768 to purchase tickets or to donate to the banquet. Messages which Koon promises will be answered promptly may be left at (520) 474-0440.
The mission statement of the MSA states, "to enhance wildlife, environment, education and our economy in the Mogollon Rim country by supporting local quality game management and our local business."
Since the association's founding, members have never strayed from their original goal of ensuring all money earned is used to benefit the Rim country.
Also, since all MSA members are volunteers, there are minimal administrative costs within the organization, Koon said.
MSA has raised more than $250,000 since its inception all of which has been donated to a variety of projects selected by an MSA committee.
Some of those wildlife projects have included water guzzlers, controlled burns, seeding projects, habitat improvements, plant/tree seedings and habitat signage.
The MSA also helps sponsor the annual Payson Wildlife Fair/Fishing Derby and has contributed to educational exhibits for the Rim Country Museum.
The association's generosity also has reached a myriad of local programs including the Chance Amon Memorial playground fund, PHS speech and debate team, PHS marching band, Payson Youth Football League and extracurricular music classes at PHS and RCMS.
Several years ago, MSA donated money to purchase ellipsoid lights for the Payson High drama program.
Many of the local high school tournaments including those in wrestling, cross country and basketball receive financial support of the MSA. Also, donations have been used to purchase uniforms and equipment for several sports at both PHS and RCMS.
Most recently, the MSA awarded the Payson High baseball team $600 to purchase new game pants. Coaches have also received money to send teams and individuals to summer training camps around the state.