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Rec centre fundraiser starts off with big

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The fundraising drive for Rainy River’s recreation centre took off in high gear, with more than $50,000 pledged to the project at its kick-off dinner and charity auction Saturday night.

The first cheque came from Donald Gall, president of the Rainy River Minor Hockey Association, for $1,000.

“Now that we’re joining the Lake of the Woods [league], we can guarantee the arena will be used more by kids,” Gall said after giving the cheque to fundraising committee member, Larry Armstrong.

But the big numbers came from the Rainy River’s branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

“I didn’t bring any money tonight but I bring a pledge,” Legion president Gerry Marchuk told the crowd gathered upstairs at the rec centre.

“The Legion is pledging $25,000,” he said, getting a standing ovation for his announcement. “To put a little incentive in the community, we’ll turn over [the] $25,000 when the community raises $50,000.”

The renovation project for the old recreation centre is estimated to cost more than $500,000. While the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corporation is paying for most of the project, Armstrong noted that the community share was $100,000 plus.

“I guess that’s why we’re here tonight,” Armstrong said. “We’re soliciting support from the community, neighbours of the community, district communities and our U.S. neighbours.”

“We’re confidant the majority of the money will be collected through a pledge drive [of donations],” he added.

Borrowing heavily on the hospital’s “Buy a Brick, Build it Quick,” campaign, Armstrong said the committee intends to raise the money by selling spots on a donor wall.

The slogan is, “Answer the Call--Support the Wall.” For a pledge of $250, a person can own a spot on the recognition wall, Armstrong said. With 400 spots available on the wall, Armstrong said the goal of the pledge drive is to raise at least $100,000.

“We hope to achieve our goal by the beginning of Y2K,” Armstrong said, noting pledge forms were available at the recreation centre and the town office.

“So friends, neighbours, answer the call--and support the wall,” he said.

Meanwhile, organizers were overwhelmed with the community’s response to the fundraising dinner. Gerry Jolicouer called the auction, with the crowd bidding heavily on the items donated by local and district businesses and individuals.

Ron McAlister, the evening’s emcee and one of the dinner’s organizers, said Friday’s turnout “exceeded all expectations” held by the committee.

McAlister noted $3,000 had been donated to the project previous to the dinner. He also thanked the many volunteers who helped put the dinner together. Then one of volunteers, Martin Dufresne, turned around and thanked McAlister.

“Ron McAlister has busted his butt the past six to eight weeks getting this together,” Dufresne said to the crowd. “And I really want a good hand for him.”

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