Pint-sized sluggers in the town of Atwood, Ill., may have one of America’s best-selling firearms to thank when they step up to the plate this summer: The local youth baseball league is raffling an AR-15 rifle to raise funds for new equipment.
The response has been “tremendous,” said Charidy Butcher, co-owner of the Atwood Armory shop, which donated the gun for auction. “I’ve gotten calls from every state in the country.”
The Rock River Arms Tactical Operator 2 AR-15 rifle that her store has put up was made by an Illinois firearms manufacturer, Butcher said. “It’s one of the hottest on the market right now,” she said. “They’re almost impossible to get your hands on.”
The raffle has already raised about $1,600 in two days, Butcher said – far outpacing last year’s raffle, which raised just $10.
"That's not counting the hundreds upon hundreds of people who have called in asking how they can send in their check for the raffle," Butcher said.
The most successful fundraiser in recent memory raised only $600, the league commissioner said.
“I’m loving it,” said Atwood-Hammond league commissioner Steven McClain. “A lot of people are saying it’s a political stunt, but it’s not.”
The team league is not affiliated with the Little League International, McClain said. Between 100 and 150 children participate in the league every year, he said.
“We’re not funded by anybody,” McClain said. “We don’t have any outside funds. We knock on doors to get sponsors from our local businesses and we’re self-sufficient.”
The rural town of Atwood had a population of about 1,200 in 2011, according to census statistics.
Both McClain and Butcher said they have young children who play ball in the league. All proceeds from the auction will go directly to the youth league, Butcher said.
Whoever holds the winning ticket will have to undergo a full background check, according to local NBC affiliate WAND.