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Sixth annual fundraiser is a great day for the Sullivan County Friends of the NRA

By Sharon Space-Bamberger
ROCK HILL — September 17, 2010 — The Sullivan County Friends of the NRA held its sixth annual fundraiser on Saturday afternoon at The Lodge at Rock Hill.
Nearly 250 hunters, target shooters and gun collectors in attendance hoped to win some good firearms and other sporting related items offered in the live auction, silent auction, games and gun raffles. And they all wanted to protect the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
The color guard was led by members of the Catskill Detachment of the Marine Corps League. They were followed by uniformed members of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police. Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Sullivan County Friends of the NRA chapter has raised more than $123,000 in the past six years. Fifty percent of the funds raised by a Friends group go to NRA Foundation, the rest remain in the state in which it was raised. The funds support programs related to firearm education and training, hunter safety, wildlife conservation, youth marksmanship and law enforcement groups. Local groups that have received Friends of the NRA grants include the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, DEC youth camps and the Sullivan County Sportsman’s Federation Youth Day.
In 2006, Wayne La Pierre presented a “High Caliber Club” banner to the Sullivan County Friends of the NRA for its fundraising efforts. The chapter now displays five “High Caliber Club” banners. NRA Senior Field Representative Jay Rusnock said that the Sullivan County group is the third largest fundraising group for the Friends of the NRA out of the 40 chapters in New York State.
Those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were not forgotten by the audience and speakers State Senator John A. Bonacic and State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
Gunther, an NRA member, recounted the reaction of some Assembly members to her stance on the Second Amendment. She reminded her audience of the solemnity of 9/11.
“Today we are remembering the almost 3,000 people who were killed by the tyranny of evil people from other countries,” she said.
“This is a very emotional day because of 9/11,” Bonacic said. “I thank everybody in this room for defending our freedom.”
Bonacic also told about his trip to Ground Zero in the days after the attack. He observed the dedication of the volunteers who responded and noted, “I was never prouder of Americans than I was on that day.”
Fundraiser Chairman Michael A. Gagliardi presented an award to Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff in recognition of his support of the Second Amendment and the NRA.
“Nothing is more important than our Second Amendment rights,” Schiff told the crowd. “We need to support our rights. Get out and vote and get our government back.”
Undersheriff Eric Chaboty wasn’t present when his boss was honored. He was home with his wife, Tammi, and Sullivan County’s newest NRA member, Wyatt Eric Chaboty, who was born a week earlier on Sept. 4. Wyatt received a life membership in the NRA from his proud parents, as did his sister, Savannah, after her birth two years ago.
The Sullivan County Friends of the NRA Committee, including Committee Officers Michael A. Gagliardi, Karl Van Valkenburg, Maura Lapiana and Arlene Bidnick and Committee Volunteers Ed Budrock, Leo Cecil, Martha Gagliardi, Brad Harder, James Hemmer, Kip Hemmer, Marc Kogan, Phil Conaty, Siggy Paty, Joseph Siegel, April Siegel and Kenneth Valenti worked for months to make the event a success. They are already planning next year’s dinner, which will be held on Sept. 10, 2011 at the Lodge at Rock Hill.
Gagliardi thanked the volunteers and the many donors and underwriters for their generous contributions. He introduced donors Frank E. Harris of Kahr Arms and Gordon Bond of Bond Arms who donated many of the auction’s guns.
Bidding was brisk on the auction items. All guns were legally transferred to their new owners by John Van Etten of Liberty, a licensed Federal Firearms Dealer. The highest bidder on the patriotic NRA print “Keep These Colors Flying” was Nicole Farrell, whose husband, Sullivan County DA Jim Farrell, wanted it for his office.
“It will go right next to my wooden plaque of the Second Amendment,” Jim Farrell said.
The last item in the auction was an American Flag. One of the bidders was Joanne Berger, mother of Staff Sgt. Alex Ozolins of the 101st Infantry. Ozolins is a Sullivan County native and two-time Purple Heart recipient who is currently recovering from the effects of an Aug. 17 mortar attack in Afghanistan. Bidding was stopped at the urging of the audience and the Friends of the NRA donated the flag to the hero’s family.
Even those who did not win felt like winners. They enjoyed a fun- filled evening with friends and great food catered by Mr. Willy’s. Most importantly, they helped to protect their right to keep and bear arms.
“The Friends of the NRA is about more than guns; it is about freedom and patriotism,” Gagliardi said.

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