GREAT FALLS – More than $500,000 was raised this past week for the Special Olympics of Montana (SOMT) State Summer Games, and on Sunday morning, a lucky participant in the 25th annual MTN Chevy Raffle claimed the ultimate prize: a brand new Chevy Silverado.
Ann Fuhrmann, of Charlo, Montana, will take home the vehicle courtesy of City Motors.
“I’m totally shocked,” she said in a phone call with organizers Sunday. Fuhrmann went on to say that while she and her husband only purchased a couple of tickets, she considered herself honored to lend a helping hand for a good cause.
“My kids […] had Special Olympians in their classes all throughout high school,” Fuhrmann said.
Other winners included Duane Sparks, the recipient of a Disney vacation for four, as well as Nick Konen of Fairfield, who secured a $3,000 Town Pump gift card. Victoria Thomas of Bozeman also won a $2,000 Town Pump gift card.
Ticket sales for the SOMT summer games totaled $485,718.11 this year; with the truck raffle, donations amounted to $526,468.49.
Over the 25-year period during which SOMT has conducted the fundraiser, exactly $13,528,686.37 has been put toward everything from purchasing gold medals to renting venues like Memorial Stadium.
“We count every penny,” SOMT President and CEO Bob Norbie told MTN News. “For every $5 sold by a local program, they keep $4 […] that’s 80% of every ticket off of gross that they keep at the local level.”
Norbie called it a substantial means by which to demonstrate the importance of the structure of SOMT — and how direct the proceeds really are. He added the funds go toward all the necessities that come with fielding a team.
“What [the money] does is underwrite the cost of training and competing,” Norbie said. “[It] provides money for uniforms, medals, equipment, facility rentals, transportation, lodging, and food.”
Tickets for the raffle are dispensed every year by Special Olympics athletes and their families. 2018 Athlete of the Year, and a member of the Great Falls Wild Hornets, Jamie Darko sold the most of any competitor in the state: 2,207 (the equivalent of $11,035). Darko told MTN News this year’s games were a blast.
“I’ve been on TV twice,” he said. His favorite part of the week was competing in his two events: bar-lifting and kayaking, for which he won two gold medals and one silver. “It’s wonderful,” he added.
Jon Hargett, also from Great Falls, finished second in ticket sales with a total of 1,578 (or $7,890). Hargett partook in golf and bocce this year, surprising himself along the way. “I broke my own record,” he said.
The last two years have sewed countless relationships, both corporate and personal, between SOMT and the Electric City, fostering some deep roots. The location of the SOMT Summer Games shifts around Montana in a three-year rotation, meaning next year will be Great Falls’ last — for now.
Self-designated “Chief Executive Fan” Bob Norbie said he’s excited to see what the 2020 Summer Games will bring.
“We’re also known as the Electric City, right?” Norbie said. “Well, there was a lot of electricity in the air this year. You only needed to come to the games to understand why there’s the word ‘great’ in Great Falls.”
The Montana Television Network (MTN) sponsors the MTN Chevy Raffle annually and is classified as a “platinum sponsor” of the SOMT Summer Games. Town Pump is also a platinum sponsor. SOMT’s most prestigious group of “premier sponsors” consists of First Interstate Bank and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. Other benefactors include D.A. Davidson and Great Falls Public Schools.
More information on how to get involved with the 2020 Special Olympics State Summer Games can be found on the SOMT website here.
Story by Zachary Schermele, MTN News