Look For New Byline On Sports Stories

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A new byline will appear above future sports stories in the Payson Roundup. It will be that of Erin Turner, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona.

Turner has a lifelong interest in sports and said she is looking forward to the challenges of covering sports in the Rim Country.

I hope to return to my reporting duties in about a month.

To contact Erin Turner, call her at (928) 474-5251, ext 112, or e-mail eturner@payson.com.

MSA seeks new members

The Mogollon Sporting Association is seeking new members with fresh ideas.

Following a meeting this past week, Ted Pettet, one of MSA's five founders, said a chief topic of discussion was attracting more volunteers to help the civic organization with its many projects.

"We've had some (members) move out of town and we are looking for new ones to replace them," Pettet said. "What we do takes a lot of work and it's important for us to have good, dedicated volunteers."

The MSA funds a myriad of school, wildlife and conservation projects around the Rim Country.

In 14 years of existence, the MSA has raised almost $500,000, which has been used for such projects as hosting high school sports tournaments, building wildlife guzzlers, reseeding forest burn areas, purchasing uniforms for youth teams and musical instruments for school bands and upgrading the stage and lighting system for the Payson High School drama club.

The accomplishments of the MSA have not gone unnoticed.

To honor its contributions, the Arizona Game and Fish Department bestowed the MSA with statewide recognition as the Conservation Organization of the Year in 2006.

In August 2005, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, the MSA was inducted into the Outdoor Hall of Fame.

According to Steve Hirsch, president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation that sponsors the Arizona 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."

Four years ago. the organization received the Arizona State Schools Public Relation Association's Award Of Merit for its longtime support of school programs.

Then-president Judy Baker traveled to Phoenix Metro Tech to accept the prestigious award.

"We are thrilled and honored to receive the award," she said at the time. "But we don't do it for the recognition. We are just trying to help out schools and the wildlife."

In the beginning

In 1991, inside the now-closed Country Kitchen restaurant, Craig Swartwood, Jim Spencer, Gary Barcom, Mike DeWees and Pettet huddled over cups of coffee, setting the MSA's foundation.

Swartwood and Pettet, both former Payson mayors, said their intent was to build an outdoors-focused organization that would spend its money in Payson rather than shipping it off to an out-of-state headquarters.

The founders agreed that the new association's goal would be to raise enough money to support Payson schools, local youth programs, the town economy and outdoor conservation projects.

Following each spring banquet -- which is the association's chief fund-raisers -- the profits are tallied and the MSA governing board gathers to consider requests for donations. There are always plenty of requests, 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 for cleanups and other outdoors 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 joined previous inductees Arizona Ducks Unlimited (2001), Arizona Desert Big Horn Sheep Society (2000), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (2004) and Anglers United (2002).

To learn more about the MSA or to join the organization, call Jack Koon at (928) 474-1662.

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