The Mogollon Sporting Association MSA has reached the pinnacle of success for a volunteer foundation -- induction into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame.
MSA president Judy Baker and a contingent of 13 association members were on hand at the Aug. 19 induction ceremonies held at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center.
"It was a very nice ceremony and a special honor for all of us," Baker said.
Among the MSA members who attended were three of the five original founders -- Ted Pettet, Mike DeWees and Gary Barcom.
Following an MSA introduction by Payson-area Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Manager Craig McMullen, Baker accepted a souvenir plaque from master of ceremonies and News Channel 3 reporter Steve Bodinet.
A ceremony program given out to all who attended outlined many of the projects MSA has undertaken in the Rim Country.
"(The MSA) has funded dozens of wildlife enhancement projects ... including the agra axe juniper clearing, wildlife rehabilitation efforts, water catchments, stock tank repairs, grassland restoration and emergency wildlife water hauling during severe drought," according to the program.
The program also characterized MSA as an association that, "has purchased uniforms for sports teams, sports equipment, bleachers, scoreboards, kid's college scholarships, music uniform and instruments and playground equipment."
In an introduction penned by Gov. Janet Napolitano, she commended the MSA and the other inductees "for all their hard work and dedication to the wildlife of Arizona and the welfare of its natural resources."
Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Duane Shroufe said the MSA and other inductees, "truly represented the essence of public interest and the commitment to wildlife."
MSA member Sandee Koon, who was present at the ceremonies, credited the community for the success of MSA, "without them we couldn't do what we do."
Hirsch lauds MSA mission
According to Steve Hirsch, president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation, sponsor of the Hall of Fame, MSA was chosen because of the contributions the organization makes in the Rim Country.
"The Mogollon Sporting Association is a perfect example of how a group of dedicated individuals can have a very positive effect on wildlife and people as well," Hirsch said. "Their program to utilize youth volunteer labor not only gets the job done, but also instills an appreciation for the great outdoors in these young people."
Baker said she was approached by Bodinet after the ceremonies and told he would like to do a television news broadcast the next time local teens are called upon to participate in one of the conservation projects.
"He said what we do was so unique," she said.
The MSA was nominated for the Hall of Fame by the Arizona Game and Fish Department which often works hand in hand with the association in wildlife habitat rehabilitation projects.
Entering the Hall of Fame is not the first honor the MSA has received.
Two years ago the organization received the Arizona State Schools Public Relations Association's Award Of Merit for its longtime support of school programs.
In 1991 inside the Country Kitchen restaurant, Craig Swartwood, Jim Spencer, Barcom, Pettet and DeWees huddled over cups of coffee laying the MSA's foundation.
Swartwood and Pettet, both former Payson mayors, said their intent was to build an outdoor organization that would spend its money in Payson rather than shipping it off to an out-of-state headquarters.
The founders agreed the new association's goal would be to try to raise enough money to support Payson schools, local youth programs, the town economy and outdoor conservation projects.
Since its founding, the association has earned about $450,000 at its annual spring banquets.
Following each banquet, the profits are tallied and the MSA governing board gathers to consider requests for donations.
There's always plenty of those to consider mostly because strapped school budgets rarely fully fund extracurricular activities.
In addition to the donations the association doles out, members often join forces with game and fish officers, Payson High School and Rim Country Middle School athletes, Forest Service employees and other volunteers to do cleanups and other outdoor projects.
The success the MSA is now enjoying comes as no surprise to Swartwood.
"I was always confident it would do well," he said.
As a member of the Hall of Fame, the MSA joins previous inductees Arizona Ducks Unlimited (2001), Arizona Desert Big Horn Sheep Society (2000), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (2004) and Anglers United (2002).
Also inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Aug. 19 ceremonies were Anita McFarlane, Sen. Robert Cannell, Marvin Robbins and Pete Cowgill.
McFarlane, of Sedona, is a long supporter of wildlife causes who was worked closely with the Arizona Heritage Fund and the Audubon Society.
Cannell was a supporter of the state's wildlife resources while serving in the Arizona Legislature.
Robbins is a activist in wild turkey conservation and an avid hunter and sportsman.
As a writer and editor for the Arizona Daily Star, Cowgill covered the outdoor beat.
Wildlife for Tomorrow, which sponsors the Hall of Fame, was founded in 1990 and works closely with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, businesses, corporations and private citizens to ensure the future of Arizona's wildlife resources.
The organization has plans to build a $7.5 million conservation and education center on the corner of Interstate 17 and Carefree Highway.