The opportunity to take home enough firearms to outfit a large hunting party awaits those who enter a Mogollon Sporting Association special raffle.
The winning ticket holder will receive a 9 mm pistol, .45 caliber sidearm, 12 gauge shot gun, .22 rifle, .22/250 varmint gun, .300 Winchester Magnum, .270 rifle, a high-dollar hunting bow and a state-of-the-art gun safe.
Tickets for the special raffle are $100 each and only 100 ducats will be sold.
The lucky winner will be drawn May 1 at the MSA’s 18th annual benefit banquet to be held at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino. Ticket holders must be present to win.
Those who have attended previous MSA banquets know there will be plenty of other raffles, giveaways, drawings and auction items during the festive evening that has grown to become one of the highlights of the Rim Country’s spring season.
For example, the winner of an Early Bird drawing — for those who purchase their banquet tickets before April 1 — will receive a Ruger .44 magnum revolver.
Although the remaining prize list has not been finalized, MSA officials traditionally auction, raffle and give away a myriad of items, including camping equipment, professional sports tickets, art, jewelry, sides of prime beef, vacations and loads of other donated and purchased merchandise.
In short, the MSA has built a reputation of having the largest prize list of any of the state’s benefit banquets oriented to the outdoor door enthusiast.
Individual tickets to the event are $75 if purchased before April 1 and, after that date, increase to $80.
The ticket price includes a prime rib dinner, a fun-filled evening, the chance to take home prizes and plenty of old-fashioned, small-town camaraderie.
Those who attend, which in the past has included some of the town’s most accomplished residents, do so knowing their celebratory evening is for a great cause.
Most importantly, all MSA members are volunteers, the organization is nonprofit and all proceeds are used to enhance quality of life in the Rim Country.
Tickets are available from any MSA member or by calling Jack Koon at (928) 474-1662.
The benefit tips off at 4 p.m. with a no-host cocktail hour and continues late into the evening with the dinner, live and silent auctions, general raffles and special raffles.
All proceeds from the annual banquet are used to fund MSA’s mission of “benefiting youth and wildlife programs throughout the Rim Country.”
Since the inception of the MSA, the organization has earned more than $1 million, all of which has gone to local causes.
Last year, some of the money was used to purchase high school band uniforms, Rim Country Middle School track uniforms, fund volleyball and softball tournaments and assist the Lady Longhorn soccer team and DECA.
MSA funds have also been used to purchase SMART boards and computer equipment at local elementary schools and improve stage and lighting facilities for the PHS drama club.
The association has also financed many outdoor projects including wildlife guzzlers, the annual Payson Wildlife Fair, controlled burns, forest reseeding, Green Valley Park trout stockings, habitat improvements and the purchase of much-needed equipment for Arizona Game and Fish officers.
The MSA also funds a pair of $2,000 Payson High School scholarships that are given out each spring in the name of Ted Pettet, one of the association founders.
Former Payson High School wrestling coach Dennis Pirch, a member of the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame and past National High School Coach of the Year, understands well the huge role the MSA plays.
“If it is good for kids and funds are a little short, the MSA will step up to the plate and make it happen,” Pirch said.
He also lauds MSA as “an organization which understands how to positively impact the future of Payson by investing in our youth.”
Lady Longhorn softball coach Will Dunman is as appreciative as Pirch, calling the MSA “a tremendous asset to our town and schools.”
Reaping the rewards of hard work
The accomplishments of the MSA have drawn accolades from around Arizona.
In 2006, the Arizona Game and Fish Department bestowed the MSA with statewide recognition as the Conservation Organization of the Year.
A year earlier, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, the MSA was inducted into the Outdoor Hall of Fame.
At the time of the induction, Steve Hirsch, then the president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation that sponsors the Arizona Hall of Fame, said 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.”
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).
Four years ago, the MSA received the Arizona State Schools Public Relation Association’s Award of Merit for its longtime support of school programs.
In 1991, inside the now-closed Country Kitchen restaurant, a group of town movers-and-shakers huddled over cups of coffee, setting the MSA’s foundation.
The founders included Gary Barcom, Craig Swartwood, Mike DeWees, Jim Spencer and Pettet. All agreed their intent in founding the new organization 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 as some other organizations do.
The founders forged a goal that the new association was in place 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-raiser — 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. Also, there are always ample wildlife, outdoor and environmental projects needing help.