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Gun raffle could happen again, league says

Though a debate still simmers around how a youth softball league raffled off an AR-15 rifle to raise money, league board members say the successful raffle could be repeated in the future.

Compared to other fundraisers, such as the league’s annual candy bar sale, the rifle raffle brought in a huge return with minimal labor involved, raising more than $1,500 in a matter of days, said Devin Degraffenreid, president of the St. Helens Girls Softball league.

“To me, that is a successful raffle, when you can make that type of return on your investment,” he said.

For the candy bar sale, the league must first spend close to $4,000 on candy bars, he said. “You have to make all that money back before you make a dime on your candy bars.”

Though there are no immediate plans to repeat the experiment, Degraffenreid says he plans on doing another, but with some adjustments.

“Obviously it got a lot of a attention,” he said. “I expected some controversy.” In the future, he added, “We’ll modify it to be more sensitive.”

The raffle drew a mixed, emotional response, with people posting encouraging comments on the league’s Facebook page, wishing they had known about the raffle and asking when they could buy tickets for the next one. Raffle winner Allen Hays, of Hillsboro, was pleased to win the gun, saying he thought the debate around the raffle was blown way out of proportion.

On the other side were former league President Betty Bundy, other board members, parents and community members who, though many of them say they are gun rights supporters and gun enthusiasts, said a gun is not an appropriate item for a youth softball league to raffle off, especially given the current political debate around firearms.

They criticized the league for not being open in their decision-making, saying that many of the board members were completely unaware of the raffle until it was over.

In this case, a league board member — a board member is anyone who has a child involved with the league and has attended at least three board meetings in a budget year — Jeff Kroll purchased the AR-15 rifle for $1,300. After the tickets had been sold he was reimbursed, but the rest of the money went to the league.

Degraffenreid said it only takes three board members to pass a motion.

“We didn’t call a meeting together,” he said. “But we talked about it in phone conversations, texts, that kind of thing.”

This practice is not unusual since it is often difficult to coordinate a meeting time that works for all board members, he said.

Bundy and other league members held a community forum March 21 to take comments about the raffle. They planned to present these comments at the league’s regular meeting March 28, after The Spotlight had gone to press for this issue.