Where would Payson High athletic programs and other extracurricular activities like band be without the help of the Mogollon Sporting Association?
In much bigger financial trouble than they are now, that’s for sure.
The nonprofit organization has raised nearly $1.25 million to support youth activities and wildlife in Rim Country since its founding in 1991.
Payson High School athletic director Don Heizer said the MSA has been instrumental in helping provide equipment, uniforms and many other things to the school’s athletic programs.
“From its inception, the MSA has played a critical role in helping kids and wildlife in the community and surrounding area,” he said. “Many things in our programs would be lacking if the MSA hadn’t stepped up and filled that void. This is an amazing civic organization that has historically proven what a great community we live in with people willing to give their time or supporting the organization by contributing through raffles and auctions and such. They serve a critical role in many different ways.”
The MSA will honor former Roundup sports editor Max Foster with its Legacy Award at its 23rd Annual Banquet on May 3 at Mazatzal Hotel and Casino. Nearly all 300 of the $75 tickets for the event had been sold as of Tuesday morning and it’s expected to be a sellout. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. for the MSA fundraiser, with a prime rib buffet at 6 followed by raffles and live auctions.
Half of the money the MSA donates to programs each year goes to support youth activities, and the other half to support wildlife.
One of the numerous examples of how the MSA has helped PHS athletics came last August when the PHS football scoreboard was tested three days before the opening game and wasn’t working. The school didn’t have the funds to pay for the repairs. So Heizer went to the MSA requesting its help. The board of directors quickly approved the funds and the scoreboard was repaired in time for the opener.
But many times the MSA only agrees to match what a team raises.
“Two years ago we gave the Payson High School band $9,000,” said Ted Pettet, one of the MSA’s charter members. “We matched what they raised. We don’t just give them, say $10,000. They need to buy in. We’ll match if they have a project or a need. We say, ‘you raise this portion of the money and we’ll match it.’ We’ve done that with sports uniforms, all kinds of stuff. We did that with instruments for the band a few years back. We’ve done that quite a bit. We put the money back into the community.”
One of the most ambitious projects the MSA has participated in in recent years has been the water catchments that provide permanent drinking water for wildlife to help them survive during the dry months.
“It provides permanent drinking water in areas where it’s two or three miles to other permanent water,” Pettet said. “It allows animals like javelina, elk, songbirds, deer, quail and just about any animal in the area, including snakes, to spread out.”
The MSA has partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Elk Society and the Mule Deer Foundation, as well as Tonto National Forest and volunteers to fund the water catchments. Pettet said three of those water catchment systems are planned for Gila County within the next few weeks.
Volunteers are a big part of these projects. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” Pettet said.
The catchments were re-designed a few years ago because the old catchments needed numerous repairs because of parts wearing out or vandalism. The new gravity-flow systems don’t require the repairs the old systems did.
“In the past, we’ve paid for the repairs of the old-style catchments, which had the toilet bowl float systems with valves to turn and floats and all kinds of things could go wrong,” Pettet said. “Those were always breaking. Elk and people would tear them up. They used to have some with tanks on top of the ground and people used them for target practice and painted graffiti on them. These are a little tougher shot. These new ones are all gravity-flow with holding tanks underground.”
Among the other projects the MSA is helping fund is GPS tracking collars for big horn sheep.
“The collars are like $3,500 apiece,” said Gary Barcom, another founding member of the MSA. “We pay for the collars and Arizona Game and Fish put them on so they can study the movement of the sheep.”
Game and Fish uses net guns fired from a helicopter to collar the sheep. MSA also pays for that helicopter time, which runs from $1,100-1,200 per hour.
MSA often donates to an athletic team if members of that team help with a project.
“One of the other areas we support wildlife and conservation in the area is working with youth like sports teams,” Barcom said. “We get them involved in conservation activities and donate to the program. We might invite a team to come help out with water catchment or fencing and when they do we make a contribution. It allows them to earn money for their program and introduces them to conservation. That’s a unique thing.”
Anyone interested in helping in any way should call Gary Barcom at (928) 978-4085.