In the rural town of St. Helens, the girls’ softball team came up with a fundraiser that has raised some eyebrows. There was no candy bars or braided bread; instead, they raffled AR-15 rifle with two 30 round steel magazines. Tickets were sold this week for $10 a peice or six for $50.
In an e-mail sent to The Oregonian from “concerned parents and citizens of Saint Helens,” those against the idea said they “feel that this type of raffle is unacceptable with regards to being linked to a youth sports organization. The board members are refusing to listen to our concerns and issues regarding this raffle. They have made it very clear that they do not care about how we feel about this fundraiser and will continue to sell tickets accordingly.”
The softball fields are in such disarray, the league knew they would have to be extreme to raise enough money to have a season. Devin Degraffenreid, the representative for the league and another parent came up with the idea to find a way to fund some improvements to fields and buy new equipment. It was put before the board and approved.
"This league – already we're hurting for equipment," Degraffenreid said. "We're hurting every year trying to get the fundraisers. ... So we said, you know what, let's try it. Let's just see what happens."
Angry parent Betty Bundy thought it was a joke when she first saw her daughter’s softball logo on the same flier as a rifle for raffle.
"What I'm most upset about is the fact that they don't feel they've done anything wrong – even seeing this rift through our community," Bundy said.
Degraffenreid defended the decision to raffle off the rifle by stating that the players never sold the tickets. Coaches sold all 330 raffle tickets in 2 days and raised $2000 for the league. “Trust me, in 13 years, this is the easiest fundraiser I've ever done in my life," Degraffenreid said.
"My thought is we're in a nonprofit business and we're in the business of making money for these girls," Degraffenreid said. "And it was a good business decision and it was one I would do again."
Betty Bundy went on to say, "I can't deny its success, it was very successful, and you know what, they could do it 20 more times and it would be. But at the cost of how your community feels? Is it worth it?"
Dozens of emails both for and against the raffle have flooded news stations and newspapers.
"I would buy these tickets if a appropriate club was selling them," one person wrote. "How about a softball clinic like the good ole' days?"
"I hope they raffle off a gun every week! Sounds like a great idea if they can raise $2,000." replied another commenter.
Some parents said they plan to meet Thursday night at Columbia City Community Hall to discuss their concerns. Board members said they will not attend that meeting. They stated that if there were concerns, they would hear them at the league board meeting at the end of the month.
Just last week, a little league in Atwood, Illinois raffled off a military-style assault rifle and tickets sales were brisk for the June drawing.