It took a week longer than originally planned, but by Saturday morning Surry Sunrise Rotary had raised enough funds to present $25,000 to city and county backpack programs.
The race, originally scheduled for Sept. 15, had to be postponed a week due to Hurricane Florence. At that point, the Rotarians had not quite met their sponsorship goal, and event chair Lesa Hensley doubled down on securing the final sponsorships necessary to meet the $25,000 goal.
The funds will be split equally between Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools, and will provide enough money to fill a total of 8,000 backpacks with food to send home on weekends and holidays with students who do not get enough food to eat when not at school.
Cash prizes were won by ticket holders whose birds were the first five to arrive back at their home loft. Suzette Spainhour’s bird came in first, winning her the top prize of $2,000. A second place prize of $1,000 went to Travis Bullin, Tonda Phillips won the $500 third place, fourth place prize of $250 went to Jessica Scott, and Amy Harrison won fifth place, $100.
Club President Chip Pulliam said on Friday night when thanking ticket buyers and sponsors, “We thank you. And the children thank you as well.”
Surry Sunrise Rotary Club began the race in 2016 when then-club chair Steve Norman proposed the club hold a pigeon race and sell tickets for $100. Each ticket holder would be randomly assigned a pigeon and the first bird back to the loft would win its ticket holder prize money. Norman races pigeons and had learned about a successful fundraiser that other pigeon racing clubs had organized and felt it was something Surry Sunrise Rotary could do with his loft’s pigeons.
Members tossed around the idea and Flight for Kids took off. The club decided that all proceeds would go to Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools backpack programs, sending food home with students who may not have enough to eat over the weekends and holidays.
In the first year of of the event, the club donated $4,000 to each school district. In the second year, they added 100 birds to the race and began looking for sponsors, enabling more money to go toward the children in need. The second year’s event raised $8,000 for each school district.
In 2018, Club Chair Lesa Hensley presented a goal of $25,000. No more birds were added to the race, making community and local business sponsorships necessary to meet the expanded goal.
With the additional time provided by Hurricane Florence, the goal was met with the assistance of the following sponsors: Interlam Corporation, Dr. James H. Wells, Dr. Phillip Brintle, Total Communications Systems and Solutions (TCSS), Steve Tate & Son Plumbing, Scenic Ford, Scenic Chevrolet, Combs Auto & Salvage, Carolina Carports, Surrey Bank & Trust, Interstate Signs, Johnson’s Extreme Softwash, Traffic Control Safety Services, Food Lion, Old North State Winery, Coram Construction Co, Hodges Realty, Creative Designs and Flowers, Brannock’s Service Center and Mt. Airy Racing Pigeon Club.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.