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To say that I am proud of the sportsmen and women of the Meriden Rod & Gun Club would have to go down as an understatement.
They have been my friends for more years than I can count and they continue this friendship today.
Over 20 years ago, I came up with the idea of getting sportsmen and gun owners to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The idea was to help children suffering from catastrophic disease like cancer and to show the public that there is another side to firearms owners and other sportsmen that is just about never covered by the news media.
It started off as an event supported by an organization called United Bowhunters of Connecticut (UBC) and had a number of organizations involved, the Meriden Rod & Gun Club being one of them. The membership decided they would hold a St. Jude Day to try and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The Meriden Rod & Gun event was first chaired by Wayne Valerie, a club member and fellow sportsmen. It was never easy running such a fundraiser because it was outdoors and the weather was almost always a factor.
At first, it was just the club members that did the shooting and raised money by doing so, but after a while they decided to see if they could not get the public to join them.
This became even more crucial to them after they met Jordan Davila, a young child suffering from leukemia. Jordan won their hearts and they resolved to make the event even more memorable.
They had a lot of support in the form of air time by WWYZ Country 92.5 and a couple of their lady DJs did some of the archery shooting.
Over the years, for one reason or another, UBC sort of faded out of the picture and the Meriden Rod & Gun Club as well as the New Haven Raccoon Club were left to their own means of supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
They were both up to the chore.
The Meriden Rod & Gun Clun decided to go all-in with its St. Jude Day. They opened up their shooting ranges, including the handgun, rifle and trap ranges, to members of the public who purchased a $10 dollar ticket.
The first couple of years were a bit rough because the weather in March was always a problem. But as the years went by, you could see the interest building up.
For the $10 ticket, you had a chance to feast on all of the food you could eat for the entire day, plus use of the shooting ranges and a chance to participate in one of the largest sportsmen’s raffles I have ever seen.
As the event grew in size, the Board of Directors. headed by out=going President Stan Drauss, V. P. Lou Santos and then-Secretary (now new president) John Waitkus and other members took over running the St. Jude Day because it was growing in leaps and bounds. The support from the public was unbelievable, and for that I would like to give my personal thanks.
And then just when it seemed that St. Jude Day was at the top of its game, we were hit with the Covid-19 pandemic and the annual March St. Jude Day had to be cancelled. October 9, 2021 was set as the new date.
You cannot believe the time donated by the Meriden Rod & Gun Club to even hold such an event, never mind having it stalled by Covid-19.
John Waitkus became chairman of St. Jude Day and I can never tell you how proud of the job he and the board have done.
The move to the October date was going to give them the real test. Because the regional ALSAC/ St. Jude office located in Massachusetts is still working from home, the club lost touch with Country 92.5 FM for the event and most of the publicity came from the Meriden Record-Journal in their Woods ‘N’ Water column.
But much to the joy of the gang at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club, after a slow start the public began to show up.
Did they ever! The gang in the kitchen headed up by Rich Kruglik kept the food coming. They estimated they kept over 350 people fed throughout the day with hotdogs, kielbasa and kraut, hamburger, venison sausage, venison chili, chicken, wild boar, beaver and beans (a crowd favorite), clam chowder and much more.
Top this off with a gigantic sportsmen’s raffle and all the money — every cent — going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
One of the bright spots of the event was there were no politicians reciting their anti-firearm rhetoric, although it would have been great if they could have taken the time to see honest firearms owners doing some good using legal firearms.
It might interest them to know that, over the years, these honest firearms owners and sportsmen have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and every cent went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Once again, I would like to thank the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and the New Haven Raccoon Club for their fundraising efforts on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and especially to all of you who supported these events and made them the success they were.
And I know that there are children suffering the ravages of cancer who thank you, too.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.