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Gun raffle rakes in money, divides community

The 330 tickets sold quickly at $10 apiece, according to the league’s Facebook page, bringing in $1,590, but some parents and other adults in the league said the raffle divided the community.

“There are definitely ways to raise money without raising such controversy,” said Betty Bundy, who has two daughters who play in the league and who has also served as a president of the association. In the past, the league has sold candy bars and held softball clinics to raise money, Bundy said. Another woman said she would just have soon bought a raffle ticket for a massage.

The AR-15, and other similar firearms, have been at the center of a nationwide debate over gun control ever since a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last December, killing 20 students.

The league’s rifle was purchased for the raffle by Jeff Kroll, who is not a board member, Bundy said. Kroll could not be reached for comment, but in a Facebook post said the rifle cost $1,300. At the time, he estimated it would bring in a profit of approximately $1,700.

Youth softball players in the league did not sell the raffle tickets and the winner of the raffle will have to go through a state background check, “just the same as if they were going into any sporting good/gun store and buying a firearm themselves,” Kroll wrote.

Bundy emphasized that she is not against gun ownership. There are guns in her house, she said. But, “When I saw the flier [for the raffle], my heart sank,” she said. “It’s just opening up something the league and the people in it shouldn’t have to deal with.”

She and others in the league association say board members made the decision without consulting them. They said when they posted their concerns on the league’s Facebook page, many of these comments were deleted. On March 20, however, the league kept a number of comment threads up and replied to some comments.

The Spotlight could not reach members of the board and board president Devin Degraffenreid did not return a phone call from the Spotlight.

“We do not have to defend anything that we have done because we haven’t done anything wrong,” read a Facebook comment from the league, replying to an announcement from Bundy that she would be organizing a public forum for March 21 for anyone who wanted to voice their opinion about the raffle.

“We are sorry that we have upset some parents but we just raised $2,000 for our kids to get new equipment and to get some field work done,” the league’s comment continued. “We are not going to keep talking about this raffle.”

A similar raffle was recently held in Atwood, Ill., to raise money for a little league team. Within the first few days, the raffle raised thousands of dollars.

The St. Helens Girls Softball league’s next board meeting is March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Best Western in St. Helens. Because of the Spotlight’s publishing schedule, it was not possible to include a report on the March 21 community meeting Bundy organized.

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