The parking lot was packed and the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale was filled with guests on Aug. 4 for the annual fundraiser hosted by the Friends of the NRA. There were over 300 guests in attendance that came from around the area, including attendees from Riverbank, Escalon, Manteca, Sonora, Modesto, Waterford and Oakdale.
The festivities began with a welcome from NRA Field Representative Cole Beverly, who was also the master of ceremonies for the event. He recognized veterans and first responders that were in the crowd which were applauded. Beverly also added that it is important to build the program to protect our Second Amendment right as well as preserving that right for the generations to come. The Friends of the NRA is a nationwide program that was created in 1992.
The Oakdale Friends of the NRA committee include Chairman Olympia Francis-Mandel, Vice Chairman Frances Francis, Treasurer Tim Mandel, and Secretary Mark Garrett. They are a non-profit organization. The Mandels have been organizing the annual dinner for the past three years and stated that attendance has increased each year.
“It was bigger and better than in years past,” stated Olympia. “It gets bigger and better every year. Our goal is always to raise more funds than we raised the previous year which we did and our goal is always to get more people in the building, which we did.”
The $60 dinner ticket included a raffle ticket for the door prize, dinner, live auction, silent auction, and eight different games. The public is invited to attend and guests do not have to be an NRA member. There were several items raffled off including a safe with guns and each white raffle ticket this year gave people a chance to win a variety of guns like a .38 Smith and Wesson, Browning Buckmark, and Remington model 870 Shotgun.
“People are coming to these events and they want guns,” stated Tim. “They want to win guns so instead of having just a bunch of miscellaneous stuff and a few guns we decided to make the entire white bucket raffle guns. That way people had the opportunity to win more guns.”
There were several games participants could play to win raffle tickets, including a Monopoly-type game, the wall of guns which is where you buy a ticket and after they sell 50 tickets they do a drawing for ‘winner’s choice’ of any gun on the wall, and another game was the card cut game where guests purchased a card and if they draw your card you win a gun. There were also several Grizzly coolers that were being raffled off, one of them with a gun in it, and also offered was a raffle for kids 17 years and younger.
Conrad Reynolds, his wife Angie, and friends made their way from Manteca to the dinner in Oakdale for the first time. Reynolds was a winner in a couple of drawings, including the wall of guns.
Jerry and Cheryl Armstrong were from Sonora and they had several tickets for a variety of raffles and they outbid some other guests in the silent auction as well.
The event was sold out a week prior to the night of the dinner and they raised over $119,000. Some of the funds raised will go to support youth shooting sports – such as trap teams –and promote educational efforts, including teaching women how to shoot.
Both a live auction and a silent auction were offered, featuring a variety of items including a quilt donated by Karen Benedict from Valley Home, wooden flag, backpacks, coolers, accent table, hunting safari, Gadsden Flag signed by Mark Geist, planter boxes, bar stools and much more. Auctioneer Seth Severs had guests excited and involved with the live auction.
“A big thank you from the Oakdale Friends of the NRA committee to everybody that came to the dinner,” said Tim. “We look forward to seeing them next year.”