Small-town America fund-raising is alive and well when it comes to a volunteer organization in Payson by the name of the Mogollon Sporting Association. It was created almost a generation ago by a group of civic-minded sportsmen who enjoyed the outdoors and had a vested interest in the youth of our community. Their first endeavor was to create a banquet, raffle and auction that would eventually develop into the most popular fund-raising activity on the calendar of most Payson outdoor enthusiasts. Eighteen years later the Mogollon Sporting Association banquet has now raised well over $1 million that has been directed toward improving wildlife habitat in the Rim Country and providing numerous youth programs with valuable equipment, enhancing education and athletics.
As a former Payson High School wrestling coach, I have fond memories of the MSA with all the financial support and encouragement these men and women have donated in sweat equity to our community. If it was good for “kids” and funds were a little short, this group would step up to the plate and make it happen. The Tim VanHorn Memorial Wrestling Tournament was a showcase event because of their monetary contributions, which attracted teams from all over the state of Arizona and New Mexico.
Almost every youth organization, school, and athletic program in the town of Payson has benefited from the benevolence of the Mogollon Sporting Association. Band uniforms, science telescopes, pitching machines and football equipment are but a few of the generous contributions that have improved youth activities and education at the local level.
The MSA as a club certainly understands the value of investing in our young people for the future of our community and country.
This is their second year of awarding the Ted Pettet scholarship — a $2,000 grant that will be given to a deserving young man and woman in the graduating class of 2010. Pettet is one of the founding members of the MSA, a retired teacher and coach, as well as having the distinction of being Payson’s first mayor. He certainly understands the value of investing in the future of our local youth.
The MSA is also a major sponsor of the Wildlife Fair, which has expanded over the years to be a phenomenal outdoor exposition. The 2010 Wildlife Fair is Saturday, May 8 at Green Valley Park. Numerous booths and displays with Arizona wildlife as the main theme will be made available for the entire family’s enjoyment, thanks to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Payson Parks and Recreation, the Tonto National Forest, and other recreational clubs.
Saturday, May 8 is also a free fishing day at Green Valley Lake. Designated by the Urban Fishing Program, the day will feature free loaner rods and bait provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. There will be plenty of trout to catch with double the normal stocking, plus numerous bonus fish in the two-pound category that were provided by funding from the Mogollon Sporting Association.
Don’t forget, mark May 8 on your activities calendar and take the entire family to the Wildlife Fair, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you see a guy or gal in a green shirt with the MSA insignia selling hot dogs and hamburgers, make sure you thank them for all the volunteer work they do in this community to help our youngsters reach their full potential.
Payson is a great place to live, in the high country of Arizona — God’s creation.