GJ group steps to plate for troops

The living room is shown in a home on Glade Park, which will be the grand prize in a raffle from which proceeds will go to military families threatened by home foreclosure.

Stealing home is a play mostly reserved for the Colorado Rockies. For Grand Mesa Little League and some Grand Junction residents, their goal is to help military personnel keep their homes.

In April, Grand Mesa Little League will use its raffle license for a drawing in which the grand prize will be a vacation home on Glade Park that has been donated by a local businessman.

Raffle proceeds will go to a national organization that helps military families with financial problems that include home foreclosure.

The idea sprang from a brainstorming session about five months ago, said Dan O’Connor of Nike Media Group in Grand Junction. He and others were lamenting the rate of military foreclosures around the country.

Their plan was to offer a “huge, nationwide raffle” to raise money that could be used to provide military personnel with grants to help them fend off foreclosure, O’Connor said.

As the prize, O’Connor put up the home on Glade Park, which he said he rarely uses any longer.

O’Connor found out about Kentucky-based USA Cares, an organization dedicated to helping post-9/11 military families with financial help and other support.

Since its founding in 2003, USA Cares has provided more than $7.6 million in grants to answer 26,000 requests for assistance.

If the raffle clears $1.5 million, it will account for a year’s worth of revenue to the organization, said USA Cares Executive Director Bill Nelson.

USA Cares has intervened to prevent more than 1,000 homes from foreclosures over its existence, Nelson said.

“I get about 140, 150 requests every week for help,” Nelson said. “Folks get stretched pretty thin after three or four assignments” in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Many times, the service member’s spouse is left behind and unable to keep up with the bills, O’Connor said.

USA Cares already is selling tickets for O’Connor’s home at $100 for one, $250 for three, $400 for five and $750 for a block of 10.

Next month, USA Cares national spokesman Dennis Miller, a syndicated radio host and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, is set to talk about the raffle.

Miller, television talk-show host Steve Wilkos, country-music artist Mark Wills and Bryan Anderson, who lost his legs in a roadside-bomb explosion in Iraq,  are spokesmen for USA Cares.

Grand Mesa Little League has used its raffle license in the past to raise money on a smaller scale for people needing help dealing with cancer treatments and the like, “but this is the biggest endeavor we’ve ever tried,” board President Dave Mantlo said.

The only thing the organization will get is the opportunity to help out, Mantlo said.

“We’re not doing it to make money,” he said, “We’re trying to help servicemen coming home. We’re excited to be part of it.”

Several prizes will be awarded during the course of the ticket-selling drive, including cruise packages, cars, adventure trips, a custom chopper, airline tickets, sporting-event tickets, electronics and so on.

The final drawing will be April 22 at the Grand Mesa Little League ball park and “We’ll make as big an occasion of it as we possibly can,” Nelson said.

He expects tickets to go quickly.

“It’s a house for $100,” Nelson said, “and I’m thinking that can’t be a bad thing for somebody.”


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