The growth of the Mogollon Sporting Association from its small group of dedicated founders to one of the most successful philanthropic volunteer organizations in the state is a feel-good story that warms the heart.
In MSA’s 20 years of existence, the group has donated more than $2 million to a myriad of worthwhile causes around the Rim Country.
Most of the money MSA has doled out has been raised at its annual banquets which have morphed into much-anticipated highlights of the spring social and sports season.
Each May, hundreds of MSA supporters enthusiastically flock to the banquet, which includes a copious dinner, a silent auction, a live auction, raffles, early bird drawings and plenty of the small-town camaraderie for which Payson is renowned.
Those who attend, which include some of the town’s most recognized residents, do so knowing their celebratory evening is for a great cause.
With the 20th banquet rapidly approaching, MSA members have for the past year worked to make sure it becomes the best ever.
“That’s our goal,” says longtime MSA member Jack Koon.
The 2012 annual banquet will be held May 5 at the Mazatzal Casino.
Doors open at 4 p.m. with a no-host happy hour. A prime rib buffet will be served at 6 p.m., with the always jovial raffles and auctions to follow.
Those who purchase tickets before April 1 will be eligible for a special Early Bird raffle that will have as a prize a Remington Model 700PS .300 Winchester Mag rifle.
But giving away guns is nothing new for MSA. Following every banquet, lucky ticket holders have walked away with a myriad of rifles, pistols and shotguns.
That won’t change this year, “We have a lot of guns to be raffled,” Koon said.
Those who want to try their luck at winning one of the many prizes, including firearms, may preorder general raffle tickets for $100 for five strips and receive an additional strip free. Each strip has five chances to win.
There were also be a “Major Drawing” that has a prize a gun safe stocked with several firearms and a bow. Tickets are $100 each and only 150 will be sold. The winner must be present.
Banquet dinner tickets are $75 each and available from any MSA member. For tickets, call Jack Koon at (928) 474-1662.
The MSA, a nonprofit organization, has as a mission to raise funds to benefit youth and wildlife programs around the Rim Country. All members are volunteers, and 100 percent of the proceeds will be used to enhance the community.
The money MSA has earned and donated over the last two decades has been used for many projects including 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.
Early in 2011, the MSA agreed to help the Payson High band out by funding a $9,000 matching grant to help purchase new uniforms that replaced the tattered and torn ones members had worn for years.
“Without MSA we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing,” said band director Daria Mason “They are absolutely essential to our (band) success and to that of many others in our schools and in the town.”
Years ago, MSA purchased metal detectors for use by Arizona Game and Fish Department officers when investigating poaching and other criminal acts.
Four years ago, MSA co-founder Gary Barcom helped a national organization called Hunt of A Lifetime provide an archery elk hunt for a 17-year-old Denver, Colo. boy suffering from a life-threatening disease.
For the hunt, the teen was given an elk tag won in a Game and Fish raffle by former MSA member Bill Wilcox. A year earlier, Wilcox died after a five-month battle with liver cancer.
In 2004, the MSA gave the town parks and recreation department $2,800 as a matching grant that was used to purchase and erect the bleachers on the north side of the new multipurpose field at Rumsey Park.
Several years ago, a day-long joint effort of Arizona Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service, the MSA and 10 Payson High School wrestlers, renovated a pristine area near Black Canyon Lake.
The project goal was to spruce up about a two-mile long creek bed area near a forest fire burn that was in the process of restoration.
The bed was clogged with debris and when spring runoffs began, the water couldn’t flow freely, resulting in the restoration area being damaged by flooding.
Just last fall, a bevy of about 35 volunteers, including several MSA members, gathered in a wash south of Payson, near Chilson Ranch and the closed Zulu Mine, to build a state-of-the-art water system, known as “Connor Catchment.” Now that it is completed, it will provide a year-round water source for wildlife in the high desert area of the Tonto National Forest.
“Deer, elk, bear, javelina, reptiles and birds will be able to (drink) there,” said Gary Barcom, a founding member of the Mogollon Sporting Association and one of the volunteers who spent six days working on the ambitious project.
In 2009, the MSA announced the founding of the Ted Pettet scholarships, which are a tribute to the man who was Payson’s first mayor, coached basketball and baseball at PHS, helped found the track team and taught at Payson High for 22 years. He also is one of the MSA original founders
Raking in honors
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.
Four years ago, the MSA received the Arizona State Schools Public Relation Association’s Award of Merit for its longtime support of school programs.
The early days
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. Among them was Pettet, who remembers the 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.
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, the profits are tallied and the board gathers to consider requests for donations.