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How a Successful Raffle Can Enrich Lives by Jessica Porter

How a Successful Raffle Can Enrich Lives by Jessica Porter


My life after high school didn’t go as I had planned.  Big things happened in my life!  Instead of enrolling in college, I stayed at home to help financially support my family.  It was while working two jobs that I met the man of my dreams!  He was in the Navy.  Soon after his completion of basic training and A-school, we were stationed to a base in southern California.  It became my goal to “keep the home fires burning” during his multiple deployments to the Persian Gulf.  This is also when I first saw the potential of a great raffle!

My husband was stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan.  It was a brand new, state-of-the-art aircraft carrier; and San Diego was its new home port.  After its arrival, the department of Fleet and Family Services helped families of the ‘76’s crew form the Ronald Regan Family Readiness Group.  This organization is comprised of sailors’ spouses, parents, and other dependents.  The group plays a key role in ship’s readiness by relaying pertinent information to the families.  This is accomplished through phone trees, group meetings, and social events.  It is also the responsibility of this group to fundraise for ship-wide social events such as the annual Holiday Party. 

I was first introduced to this group at one of the RR family meetings.  All Ronald Regan family members and friends were encouraged to attend, as the command would be sharing important information about the upcoming deployment.  It was at that meeting that I first heard of the “First Kiss” raffle.  And let me tell you, it is as exciting as it sounds!

After months of short trips called “work ups”, the ships finally deploy for up to nine months.  That is a long time to be separated from someone you love.  Many of the young families were comprised of people like my husband and I.  We were very young, 19 and 21 respectively, and newly married.  We had only lived together for six months prior to his first deployment.  Some of the RR families had young children at home, as well.  In our case, I was due to give birth to our first child, four days after the ship’s scheduled departure date.  I learned that this scenario is not uncommon in the military.  Many of our sailors leave home without meeting their newborn children.  So, my ears really perked up when our group president began describing the premise of this raffle.

For $1, an individual could purchase a raffle ticket.  Each raffle ticket would be entered into a drawing.  The first two tickets pulled in the drawing would win a prize beyond monetary value!  The winners of this raffle get to kiss their sailor “welcome home” first!  Two lucky sailors and their families will be reunited pier-side, long before even the Captain or the Officers disembark!  It’s a tremendous privilege and a real thrill to those individuals and their families!  Everyone wants to win that coveted ticket!         

So, as soon as we heard the details of the “First Kiss” raffle, we start hustling to sell tickets!  For the chance to see my spouse early, I’d pay any amount!  The prize is worth more than any price I could name!  However, financially, these families are all in the same boat, so to speak.  Money can be tight living on a military income.  This is when networking becomes vastly important.

If a person wants to win the “First Kiss” raffle, they will have to beat the odds.  If there are 5,000 service members onboard, and each one has at least a spouse and a mother… you can see how challenging the odds are.  Quickly, I decided I couldn’t win this raffle on my own.  So, I called in reinforcements.  I had my mother, my mother-in-law, and my grandmother working with me.  Each of them began networking, selling tickets to anyone with the time to listen to their sales pitch.  If you are passionate about your cause, the tickets sell themselves!  Soon, I had money coming in from all over the United States, and some from outside the country!  We were on a mission to win this raffle! At each subsequent RR family meeting, I would turn and chat with other wives about their numbers, how many tickets they had sold, and how many more they were planning to buy.   I know it may sound cheesy, but the “fun” was in truly a part of this “fun-draiser”.  It helped pass the time, it helped keep morale up, and it helped earn money to fund what was a fantastic Holiday Party!

I didn’t win the “First Kiss” raffle that year.  However, two other lucky families did win, and it was wonderful to watch as they were reunited with their sailors. Besides, our family was lucky in an even bigger way.  Our daughter came early, and my husband was there in San Diego to be present at her birthday.  When he shipped out four days later, it was truly hard to say goodbye to him, while holding that little baby girl.  If I hadn’t loved my family and my country so much, it wouldn’t have been possible to overcome that challenge.  The entire experience made us all stronger, though.  Now, I look back on it and feel great pride.  My memories of the Ronald Reagan’s maiden deployment are priceless and the excitement of that raffle is a big part of those memories.  The experience also demonstrated how a successful raffle can enrich lives.  I know this particular raffle and the memory of it has enriched mine. 

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Contributed by Jessica Porter

December 8, 2015