The Mogollon Sporting Association at its August meeting donated about $14,000 to various Payson school district programs and another $10,000 in matching money to help fund a water catchment project in the Tonto National Forest.
As generous as those donations might seem, they are nothing new for the MSA. The philanthropic civic organization has been awarding sizable financial donations to needy causes since its founding in 1992.
Just three years ago, MSA donated $6,500-plus to purchase a high jump pit for the Payson High School track team, a portable backstop for the baseball team and SmartBoards at Frontier Elementary School. MSA also donated $1,000 to pay for PHS wrestling officials.
In 2011, MSA granted $9,000 in matching funds to help the PHS band purchase new uniforms.
The donation drew lavish praise from band instructor Daria Mason.
“Without MSA, we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing,” she said. “They are absolutely essential to our (band) success and to that of many others in our schools and in the town.”
In addition to the annual donations MSA makes, the association has funded for the past three years the Ted Pettet Scholarships that go to a pair of outstanding graduating PHS seniors who have participated in extracurricular activities. The two scholarships are worth $2,000 each.
The list of donations goes on and on, because providing financial help to local schools, youth programs and wildlife projects has been MSA’s mission since former Payson mayors Craig Swartwood, Ted Pettet and others helped found the organization following a meeting with former PUSD superintendent Ron Sipus and then Tonto Forest District Ranger Steve Gunzel.
The money MSA donates is raised mostly at its yearly banquets, auctions and raffles that traditionally take place in the spring at the Mazatzal Casino.
Last May 5, the banquet drew a record 275 persons to an evening that is widely considered one of the most festive in the Rim Country.
Who receives the money?
To receive an MSA donation, coaches and club sponsors must submit an application detailing what the money will be used for.
After the MSA receives the requests, a committee pours over the applications in an effort to uncover the most needy and worthwhile.
Once the recipients are selected, an association spokesperson, sometimes Pettet, announces the grant winners.
This year, the high school softball, volleyball, basketball and boys soccer teams were on the receiving end of grants.
The softball, volleyball and basketball teams received $1,000 each to pay game officials and referees.
The soccer team was awarded $2,500 for new uniforms.
The high school was given $3,708.16 to purchase folding chairs for special events and $1,229.69 for science lab equipment.
Rim Country Middle School received $1,089.95 to purchase volleyball equipment and Julia Randall Elementary School was awarded $505.83 to fund a computer project.
Payson Elementary School asked for and received $299.50 for voice recorders.
The $10,000 for the water catchment project will be used to help upgrade catchments in the northern part of the Tonto National Forest that have fallen into disrepair.
The catchments provide a year-round water source for all wildlife, big and small.
In addition to the MSA funding the water catchment, the association annually pays for trout stockings in Green Valley Park just prior to the annual Wildlife Fair.
MSA has also purchased metal detectors for game and fish officers to use in investigating poaching, and bought an herbicide spray unit and trailer to be used in the effort to eradicate noxious weeds in the forest.
In funding outdoor conservation projects, the MSA often teams with other organizations including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Bowhunters Association and the Wildlife Conservation Council.
Honors roll in
The accomplishments of the MSA have not gone unnoticed around the state.
In 2006, the Arizona Game and Fish Department bestowed the MSA with statewide recognition as the Conservation Organization of the Year.
In August 2005, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, the MSA was inducted into the Outdoor Hall of Fame.
At the time, Steve Hirsch, 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.”
Also, one of the MSA founders — Gary Barcom — a Payson man, long known for his conservation efforts and civic contributions, was in 2008 inducted into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame.
Last April, Barcom received the Legacy Award from fellow MSA members. It annually goes to a person — not necessarily an MSA member — who contributes significantly and unselfishly to the Rim Country’s environment, education, conservation and economy.
Among those who laud the MSA and its members is former Payson High School wrestling coach and teacher Dennis Pirch, a former Legacy Award winner and a tireless worker in the cause of conservation.
“If it is good for kids and funds are a little short, the MSA will step up to the plate and make it happen,” he said. “That’s just the kind of people they are.”