Much like the U.S. Cavalry rode to the rescue in Old West movies, the Mogollon Sporting Association galloped in to help the Payson High School football program when the PHS scoreboard went on the blink just days before the 2012 home opener.
Knowing the difficulty it would be to host a game without a scoreboard, MSA members huddled and voted to spend $1,600 to repair the scoreboard in time for the first game.
Those types of benevolent acts, however, are nothing unusual for the MSA, which has been doing them since the organization was founded 21 years ago.
MSA donations over the years have funded a myriad of 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.
Last summer, the association donated $5,000 to Payson Elementary School to purchase a phonics reading program.
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.”
The MSA also has a rich history as a major sponsor of the Gracie Haught Classic softball tournament that each spring brings 20 prep teams and hundreds of parents and fans to Payson.
Also, years ago MSA purchased metal detectors for use by Arizona Game and Fish Department officers when investigating poaching and other criminal acts. Since then, MSA has continued to help fund AG&F as help is needed.
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 daylong 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.
Two years ago, 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 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.
Banquets fund MSA projects
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 21st 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.
Just last week, Koon and Pettet huddled at the Cedar Ridge restaurant to finalize the plans for the 2013 annual banquet to be held May 4 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 Weatherby .338 Winchester Magnum 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 will also be a “Major Drawing” that has as prizes $10,000 worth of Vortex Optics. The 10 items are valued at $500 to $1,500 each.
The first winner can take his choice of any of the 10 items. The second will choose from nine optics and the third from eight optics until all 10 optics have been raffled. Tickets are $50 each and tickets may be purchased until all 10 items are gone. 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 Rim Country. All members are volunteers, and 100 percent of the proceeds will be used to enhance the community.