Revving Up for A Raffle

On October 11, the Morris Lions in Illinois will pull a ticket and give some lucky winner the keys to a red 1971 Camaro with a split bumper.

They will have sold more than 15,000 raffle tickets for this, their 24th classic car raffle, in 34 years of hosting the Morris Lions Fall Classic Car Show. But for the thousands who laid out US$5 or more, and don’t win the car or the cash prizes, well, “You’re already a winner,” the Lions like to tell them. “You’re a winner because you’re helping people by buying a ticket.”

One hundred percent of the profit from the raffle and the Lions car show (Oct. 11 and 12 at the Grundy County Fairgrounds near Morris), goes back to the community, says club treasurer and car show chairman Rick Martino. Over the last 10 years the Lions have made a US$310,000 profit on the car raffle, and the  show/raffle combined has earned them US$646,000.

The Lions keep a list of where the money goes, and over Lion year 2018-2019, the raffle and show proceeds supported 41 different individuals, places, and causes. Now with the pandemic’s grip on communities, the Lions expect more will be in need of their help.

1971 Camaro with Lion
The Morris Lions in Illinois will raffle this 1971 Camaro on October 11, with all the profit going back to their community for the 24th year.

Eye glasses, hearing aids, college scholarships, city park improvements, camps for kids, a community Easter egg hunt and a Halloween party, diabetes support, the local food pantry, LCI, hospice, and many more are the ways the Morris Lions spent more than US$100,000 over a year of helping others.

Immediately after each year’s car show, Lions begin searching for next year’s vehicle, and thinking about next year’s show. The car they choose has to be a Classic from 1960 to 1972, and an automatic, because many people don’t know how to drive a stick shift, Martino says. But the make and model have varied over 24 years, from Mustangs to Camaros, a Riviera, a Monte Carlo, and one year, a ’64 Ford pickup.

The best year, Martino and car committee members recall, was the year of the 1972 blue Chevelle, when the club made US$50,000 in profit just on raffle tickets. “Everybody wanted to win that car,” remembers Doug Linn, a 38-year Lion.

Of course it takes a lot of effort to sell thousands of tickets, and the club of 62 relies heavily on members willingly donating their time. “We have to sell a lot to make a lot,” says Linn. “From January to our car show in October that year (of the Chevelle) we went to 40 or 50 events to sell raffle tickets.”

This year the pandemic didn’t help. Many events were cancelled. But on weekends, the Lions went to a food store parking lot at a busy intersection to sell, and Martino says they were successful.

On typical years, 9,000 to 10,000 people will attend the popular car show that has grown from 100 cars on display to around 1,000 in 33 classes of cars and trucks. The swap, where car enthusiasts can buy parts for their cars, is also a big draw, and on show day, the busy Lions will rely on the help of Boy Scouts, members of the American Legion, and volunteers from the Sheriff Explorer program.

“We’re just glad we can have the event this year,” says Martino, who keeps abreast of Grundy County Health Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. “People are so depressed these days. We hope it will put a smile on their faces and help the community.

“It’s all in the giving back, and we found a way we can make a heck of a difference with a small group of individuals,” he says. “The community counts on a lot of activities we fund, and you almost feel a responsibility to continue funding these different things. Lions have an awesome reputation for coming through.”