For the last four years locally owned Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing has been raffling a Willie Boat for the benefit of local youth sport and music programs. “This year we decided to raffle two boats so we did a drift boat as well as the Willie Fusion, motor and trailer. Jim Bittle of Willie Boats builds these for us each year just for the cost of materials so we can make a little money for youth sports here in our community,” Scott Miller of Soldotna Hardware & Fishing told the Dispatch. According to Scott 799 fifty dollar tickets were sold for the power boat and 750 twenty five dollar tickets for the drift boat, “We have people from all over the world come through the store and buy tickets. The power boat sells out really early and mostly to local folks, but the drift boat gives some of the tourists and out-of-towners who come down to fish a chance to get in on the raffle and spend some money to benefit our local youth,” added Scott, whose brother Brian Miller announced that indeed a visitor from Fairbanks Chad Greenhagen was the lucky winner of the drift boat and the big winner of the Willie Boat package was Vickie Greer of Soldotna.
When contacted by the Dispatch Vickie’s husband Richard said he was ready to take it for a trial spin on a lake before launching into the river and that she only bought one ticket and never expected to win it but just wanted to support the kids. Vickie is a nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital and when contacted confirmed what her husband saying, “I didn’t even look at the boat but just wanted to buy a ticket to support our youth. Others at the hospital bought multiple tickets to increase their chances of winning, but it only took one and having won it we’ll be keeping it and use it for fishing with the family and friends. My husband is already training for its safe operation and we’re going to enjoy it a lot,” said a happy nurse Vickie.
With the proceeds from the boat raffle the Miller family was able to hand out $25,000 last week to local high school sports programs including Soldotna High, Skyview High, Cook Inlet Academy, Soldotna Little League and other youth organizations like the Kenai Peninsula orchestra. “It helps a lot of families keep their kids in sports and youth activities and that’s what the boat raffle is all about. We grew up here played sports with a lot of kids who now have kids of their own and this town is like a big family we stand together and support each other and this is a way for us to give back a little bit and we like doing it,” said Brian.