Fishing a new lure for school fund-raising

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Forget trays of cookies and brownies. Forget boxes of candy bars. Forget soap-soaked car washers. Ninilchik School is hosting a fund-raiser that reaches outside the school, beyond the community and blasts past state boundaries.

With generous help from the charter fishing community, they are raffling off the Alaska Dream Trip 2006, 10 days of travel, fishing and lodging on the Kenai Peninsula for two fortunate people. Drawing of the winning ticket in April 2006 can be viewed anywhere the Web is accessed, thanks to telecasting capabilities of the Kenai Peninsula School Borough.

"This won't solve fund raising, but it's going to enhance it considerably," said Terry Martin, principal of Ninilchik School.

On June 1, 2006, the winning ticket holder and a friend will travel by air from anywhere in the contiguous United States to Anchorage and then drive to Seward. June 2, they will enjoy a Kenai Fjords tour, drive to Ninilchik and contact Chihuly Charters, with whom they will fish for salmon and halibut on Cook Inlet the following day. Fishing for halibut with Butt Chasers, a Ninilchik charter, is on the agenda for June 4, followed by an evening seafood barbecue. A day off the water is planned June 5, giving time for a to drive Homer.

After overnighting on the Homer Spit, a day of halibut fishing is planned with Lucky Pierre Charters on June 6. On June 7, Captain Steve's Saltwater Charters takes over, with a launch out of Anchor Point for one final day of saltwater fishing.

Then, on June 8, the tempo changes to fresh water, with Harry Gaines Kenai River Fishing Guides of Soldotna. The last host of this dream trip is the Timber Wolf Lodge on the bank of the Kenai River in Soldotna.

The lodge is providing deluxe overnight accommodations, a day of fishing for king salmon on the Kenai and a day of fly-out bear viewing. On June 11, the fun wraps up with travel back home.

Deep Creek Custom Packing has donated processing of all the salmon and halibut that are caught.

Tickets sell for $25 each. Whatever is raised will be split 50 percent for cocurricular activities, 35 percent for enriching academic opportunities, such as the school's annual science fair, and 15 percent for seed money for next year's fund-raiser.

Faced with the necessity of funding extra-curricular activities, Ninilchik School has done what every other school has done — piecemealed together what's needed for the volleyball team, the cross-country team, the basketball team and anything else that comes along.

"There's a core group that is very active in different things so they end up largely doing the fund raising for all (the activities)," Martin said. "This week they're selling candy bars. Last week it was fudge. Next week, a car wash. All of those are little base hits. Why not go for the grand slam?"

After coming up with the dream trip idea, Martin ran it past a group of parents and school supporters. They took it from there.

"We were trying to think if it was us going on vacation in Alaska, what kind of things the peninsula could offer, and we spoke to people to see if they would be willing to help out," said LaRae Bartolowits, who, with her husband, Paul, owns and operates Lucky Pierre Charters. Paul graduated from Ninilchik School in 1979; the couple's four children also attend the school.

"We always try to support the school and fund-raising activities," said Jeff Berger, owner of Deep Creek Custom Packing.

Berger's son graduated from Ninilchik and his daughter will be a sophomore next year. Deep Creek also offers scholarships to graduating high school seniors.

"This is a great thing to do, kind of fun," Berger said.

Bartolowits and other organizers, including Cindy Schnabl, Ginny Johnson and Christine Moerline, contacted businesses with connections to Ninilchik School and identified ticket sale outlets.

As a result, tickets will be available at Ninilchik businesses, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and can be purchased over the Web at

According to Martin, Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to be one of the event's sponsors. FishAlaska magazine donated ads. Ninilchik Traditional Council donated $1,000 to get the fund-raiser started with brochures and tickets.

When the district manager for QSP Reader's Digest — organizer for school-type fund-raising events — stopped for a visit at Ninilchik School, Martin took the opportunity to discuss the raffle.

"I was checking to see if there was anything they could do to help us out," Martin said. "And he said, 'I'll tell you this. I'll buy four tickets myself and send this out to all of the Reader's Digest employees across the country.' I don't know what that number is, but that type of networking is valuable for what we're doing. We've got so many people that are just stepping up and helping us out."

By the time the winning ticket is drawn April 3, the goal is to have reached $100,000, Bartolowits said. She believes the goal is reachable.

"Schools bring out the best in us," she said.

Looking at the Dream Trip calendar covering his office wall and the sponsor contact information spread around him, Martin said, "I hope it goes as well as we anticipate. I really don't see how we can fail with the experiences the people largely in this (school) building are able to provide for us. How can it get any better?"

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