Guest Column: Uniqueness makes ‘Barrel of Booze’ successful

Editor’s note: Sports Columnist Doug Halberstadt addresses this issue in his column, “Barrel of Booze’ high school bowling raffle unacceptable” in another column in this issue.

Dec. 20, Doug Halberstadt, a reporter for The Rock River Times, phoned me to say he thought a fund-raiser I am running to benefit the Rockford Guilford and Jefferson high school bowling teams is in bad taste and that he was going to write a story about it.

The fund-raiser is called the “Barrel of Booze.” A wheelbarrow is filled with about 30 different types of liquors, wines and beer. The coaches push the barrel up and down the bowling center concourse during leagues asking adult league bowlers to buy a ticket for a chance to win the wheelbarrow, plus all the contents. All the profit from the ticket sales goes to help pay for program expenses—travel expenses, team equipment and other general team expenses—for the Guilford and Jefferson bowling teams.

I disagree with Mr. Halberstadt, and here’s why.

Yes, I will admit it is different from your run-of-the-mill fund-raiser. But that is what makes it work. While I would like to think I was creative enough to develop such an “out-of-the-box” idea, the idea came from a coach in southern Illinois, who has been doing the fund-raiser for a number of years. You can only sell candy or candles so many times.

I told Mr. Halberstadt that since he has such a problem with the concept, maybe he could donate to the program so I would not have to do the fund-raiser. His answer to that was I should have the team do a car wash or wrap Christmas presents. The car wash idea is a possibility, but not in the middle of winter. The Christmas present wrapping would not, in my opinion, generate the revenue the program needs. Beer, wine and liquor are legal in this country (for those 21 and older); we only sell the tickets to those who are 21 and older.

I asked Mr. Halberstadt how the “Barrel of Booze” fund-raiser is different from “Casino Night,” poker nights and bingo fund-raisers that are run around the area to raise funds for kids’ programs. Or, how about those 50/50 raffles that happen at the high school basketball games? Isn’t that teaching kids to make risky investments? Ken-Rock Community Center has held many Texas Hold ’Em poker fund-raisers to benefit the kids’ programs they run. What about the state lotteries that raise money for schools? Is gambling not just as dangerous as drinking when taken to the extremes? Addicted gamblers destroy homes and lives, just as addicted drinkers do.

He said he wasn’t concerned with those fund-raisers; his focus was on the “Barrel of Booze.” Well, what can I say to that other than so much for fair and balanced media?

I have been coaching the Guilford bowling team for 14 years. I take great pride in knowing the kids who have gone through my program have learned to become better bowlers and better individuals. Sportsmanship, respect and responsibility are always the focus with my teams.

Yes, there are people who will have a problem with the “Barrel of Booze” or other various fund-raisers. To them, I say don’t support them. For Mr. Halberstadt, I say go sit on a mountain covered with pure, fresh snow and pat yourself on the back for being so politically correct. From your elevated vantage point, you will be able to look down better upon me and the other less enlightened people below.

For me, I prefer to live in the real world.

Brad Sommer is Rockford Guilford High School bowling coach.

From the Dec. 27, 2006-Jan. 2, 2007, issue

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