Booster clubs often ask high school athletes to sell popcorn, cookie dough or other items to help raise funds to help offset the costs of athletic programs.

This year, however, football players at Cedar Cliff High School were asked to sell raffle tickets where five of the 10 prizes were guns, raising concerns among some parents.

Weapons offered in price by Cedar Cliff Colts football booster are: a 9-millimeter Glock 19 Gen 5, a 9-millimeter Springfield Hellcat, a 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson 2.0 Pro Series, a 12-gauge semi-automatic Radical MKX-3 and a Savage Axis 2 .30-06 Monitor .

The prices include a shotgun that looks like an assault rifle.

The idea of ​​drawing guns raises multiple concerns for Daina Thompson, a mental health professional and mother of a 14 and 11-year-old child in the district.

“In such bad taste,” she said, the sale was announced during National Suicide Prevention Week.

“I can’t support something that potentially puts guns in more teenage homes than I see, knowing the statistics,” Thompson said. “They clearly haven’t consulted a mental health professional about this.”

The high school football program has an annual obligation of approximately $ 50,000 per year. Cedar Cliff’s parenting reminder club email said the club had sold ‘pride cards’, meat raffle tickets and gift cards in the past, but wanted to do something about it. something new this year.

If a raffle winner prefers not to accept a gun, they can get a $ 200 prize instead, according to the reminder club email. Tickets were distributed to football players on September 9 and the winners were due to be announced on October 29 at half-time for the Cedar Cliff-Mifflin County game.

The school district, however, has since declined the callback club’s request to use school property to announce raffle winners.

The recall club is not required to receive district approval for its fundraisers, according to Rhonda Fourhman, spokesperson for the West Shore School District. On a flyer advertising the gun raffle, the district asked the recall club to add the following message to prevent people from believing the raffle was approved by the district:

“The content and opinions expressed herein are those of Cedar Cliff Football Boosters and are not the views of the West Shore School District, its Board of Directors or its employees. Distribution of information, display of material, or organizational events do not constitute endorsement by the District of any such product, service, organization, business, information provider or content.

“Although a bridging group cannot exist without our students, the district (including individual schools and the school board) does not have direct control or authority over parent-organized bridging groups. , especially with regard to its leadership, organization, finances, etc. . “Fourhman said in an email.

The Cedar Cliff recall club did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but defended the raffle in an email to Thompson.

“Okay, it’s unbearable to think that an object could be used as a weapon to hurt yourself or others, no matter what the source,” the club’s email said. “[But] linking the intention of the toss and a proposed outcome is unfair and misleading.

“As a parent, I am also appalled by any tragedy that affects our children, regardless of location or neighborhood. This does not negate the responsibility of the legitimate adult to whom the price is legally collected.

The problem, according to Thompson, is not whether adults should own guns, but whether it is appropriate to sell guns as part of a school-related fundraiser. .

“I’m not trying to start a war over the Second Amendment,” Thompson said, adding that she had hunters and the military in her family. “I’m not against people getting guns on their own, but how can this be appropriate in a school environment? “

She cited grim statistics in her email to the recall club, asking them to reconsider pricing.

More than 25% of high school students reported deterioration in their emotional or cognitive health during the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 20% of adults noticed that their children aged 5 to 12 had worsening mental health or emotional, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A survey conducted by the University of MichiganThe University of Toronto Health Department showed that 46% of parents had adolescents with new or worsening mental health problems since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Thompson said she spoke to other parents who were “very unhappy” with the raffle and did not want to sell tickets. The West Shore School Board sympathized with Thompson’s opinion, but said it had no power over the recall club fundraisers.

“If they do that, they could really decide to fundraise anything,” Thompson told PennLive. “If it’s five guns now, who can say it won’t be all guns next time?” A raffle of all weapons?

Although unique, this is not the first time that firearms have been used in school raffles.

In 2018, a Millerstown man raised concerns about his 9-year-old daughter being required to sell gun raffle tickets in order to compete in a preteen cheerleader. The Greenwood-Newport Midget Football Association told PennLive at the time that the raffle was “very popular” and helped keep the program afloat. The midget football program sold 31 rifles that year – one per day in October.

Thompson said teens regularly come to her with suicidal thoughts or trauma after witnessing gun-related domestic violence.

“I would love to think that whoever goes in this raffle is a responsible gun owner, but guess what?” They are not, ”she said.

“Our teenage suicide rate continues to rise. We’re so overloaded with people calling and wanting to go to therapy, ”Thompson said. “With what’s going on right now – not just with the [mass] shootings but with increased mental health needs during the COVID period – why would we also want to donate guns? “

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