A string of eager buyers waited in line for a chance to spin the wheel and earn a ribbon of tickets. Most had their eyes on the Savage 93 .17 rifle.
Yampa Valley Friends of NRA held its 10th annual fundraising banquet Saturday night, and the spinning wheel was a popular attraction. The person holding the winning raffle ticket could choose the rifle or "Letters from Home," artwork by Brian Hart.
The group raised $19,026.19, which is up significantly from last year's $12,000. One hundred eighty-four supporters attended the banquet, which club treasurer Mindy Durkop said is about average.
The local chapter of Friends of NRA began 10 years ago, and Durkop, her husband, Henry, and Craig Rummel have been active since its founding.
"Friends of NRA is a non-political arm of the National Rifle Association," said Rum--mel, chairman of the local committee.
The money raised from the banquet goes toward firearm education and conservation. Rummel attends a state council with other local chapter representatives to review grant applications and decide which organizations deserve the funds.
"Any group can apply for the grants," he said. "If the state selection committee thinks it's a valid request, they go ahead with funding it."
Rummel believes in this cause because of the local ramifications of being involved in a national organization.
"What's so neat about the program is, unlike other organizations, half the money we raise comes right back to the Yampa Valley," he said. "The people who support it get to reap the benefits."
These funds are used to support area sportsmen through scholarships, reading materials, range improvement and gun-safety classes. The organization also gives money to programs such as 4-H, air pistol clubs and bow-hunters groups, and it purchased the Eddie the Eagle suit for the Craig Police Department.
"All the people who donate to this can take pride that they helped someone go to college or helped the 4-H groups," Rummel said.
Mindy Durkop said seeing young area shooters benefit from the group's effort is what makes her 10-year involvement worthwhile.
"It supports our Second Amendment rights, but most importantly, it supports the youth of the valley," she said. "It keeps shooting education alive."
Friends of NRA has 15 committee members who meet every two weeks for a month-and-a-half. There are no other meetings and no membership dues.
Rummel happens to be a member of the NRA, but the annual banquet is open to anyone who wants to attend.
"Most people (who come) are, but they don't have to be," he said.
Local businesses support the fundraiser by donating items that are auctioned and raffled. This year's items included 16 guns, a variety of furniture, framed art and other firearm memorabilia.
"We have tremendous support from the community," Rummel said. "That's why this has been so successful over the years."
Since its start, Yampa Valley Friends of NRA has raised about $120,000 through the banquet.
"For me, the reason it's so important is the money comes back to this community," Rummel said. "So much of the money stays here in this community."
For more information about Friends of NRA, to donate or to apply for grant money, call Rummel at 824-7538.