Canaan Valley Ski Lodge was packed this year with participants in the 24th annual Uncle Sam’s Birthday Party dinner benefit and giveaway. Hundreds attended the traditional Independence Day celebration fundraiser, which was held Friday evening and hosted by the Tucker Community Foundation.
Each year, Donna Patrick and Amy Barb roam Tucker County selling tickets to the event, with ticket holders guaranteed dinner for themselves and a guest along with entry into an elimination-style drawing to win various prizes ranging from Tucker County themed gifts to a grand prize of $5,000. Proceeds from the event go to annual scholarships and grants in the area through the Uncle Sam’s Birthday Fund.
Guests greeted one another and were greeted in turn by “Uncle Sam” -played by David Cooper- and smiling party coordinators, setting the tone for a very open and social evening. As everyone was getting seated or taking their turn picking out their choice of hot food from the spread, Master of Ceremonies and longtime supporter Chris Stadleman began to read off the names from a slowly dwindling pool of tickets. “Uncle Sam” and Donna Patrick placed names of those drawn up on the elimination board. Some of those eliminated won door prizes, which they selected from a range of gifts, and every 25th ticket eliminated won $150 in cash. A few lucky eliminatees were also selected to answer trivia questions about West Virginia, for a chance to earn a prize.
Excitement built as participants slowly were knocked out by having their tickets drawn, while those still holding tickets looked on with hope that they would remain in the running for the grand prizes.
A final ticket held back was sold at auction, which led to a friendly bidding war across the floor, to the cheers of onlookers. The ticket was eventually sold, for $2,700 – an Uncle Sam’s record, to the Band of Brothers: Doug Milam, Scott Hinkle, Mike Martin, and Ken Rothschild, who split the cost.
At last, the final tickets were drawn to excited gasps and laughter from the crowd, with each of the final drawings being worth an increasing amount. First, winning $200, was S&L Construction, followed by Canaan Valley Lawn and Landscaping being awarded $300. The third ticket drawn was that of Mike Cooper, for $400, and the fourth and fifth drawings were split, as the last two potential winners decided to take half the remaining prize pool each.
Of $5,500 from these last tickets of the first round drawing, $2,750 was awarded to each Cary Reed and the members of the Band of Brothers. This year there were in fact two $5,000 prizes up for grabs, with this new second round drawing being between four lucky party-goers selected from the crowd along with the auctioned ticket-winner Band of Brothers.
Four tickets were drawn from the crowd at large, and put in with the ticket Milam, Hinkle, Martin, and Rothschild had purchased. These five tickets were then drawn in random order, with $150 going to each of the first four tickets drawn. These lucky second-round winners were Arden Swecker, followed by Ivonne Martinez and Keith Strausbaugh, then Mike Cooper, and finally Donna Moore.
The night’s second and final $5,000 grand prize -the fifth ticket drawn in the second round of giveaways- was won by the Band of Brothers: Hinkle, Milam, Rothschild, and Martin.
Additional raffle tickets were sold off at dinner for three separate prize package drawings. First offered was a package including a stay at the Greenbriar Resort in White Sulfur Springs, valued at $1,200 and won by Jonathan Schafler. The second raffle prize of the evening was a package containing themed prizes from across the mountain state, including memorabilia, golf passes to Stonewall Resort, and a two night stay in downtown Charleston. This package, valued at nearly $1,700, was claimed by Martin Jefferson. The final raffle prize of the evening was a “Total Tucker Treasure Chest”, containing a large collection of different Tucker-themed gifts. The lucky winner of this $2,700 gift package was Janet Preston, who also was one of the evening’s door prize winners.
All in all, this year’s Uncle Sam’s Birthday celebration proved to be a big success, with guests amused and excited by the evening’s events and with considerable funds raised to support local programs that many citizens of the county benefit from.