Story by Sharon Space Bamberger
CALLICOON Two-hundred-and-seventy-four supporters of America’s right to “keep and bear arms” attended the seventh annual Sullivan County Friends of the NRA Freedom & Fundraising Event at the Villa Roma last Saturday.
The fundraiser was sold out for weeks in advance. Banquet activities included special drawings; raffles, a silent auction and a very lively live auction with guest auctioneer Jay Rubin. The attendees came for fun, fellowship and food and to support the NRA’s efforts to protect the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Event Chairman Michael A. Gagliardi presented an award to Sullivan County Court Judge and Surrogate Michael F. Mc Guire for his outstanding support of the Second Amendment and the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.
His Honor drew laughter from the audience when he held the award aloft and observed, “This is truly one that strikes home. This is a group of people I’d let my children go to the opening of a Batman movie with. They wouldn’t get off the second shot.”
He continued, “The Second Amendment has very simple wording; unfortunately we have to keep explaining it to people.”
Since its inception in 1992, the Friends of the NRA has raised over $100 million through local fundraisers like the Sullivan County event. Half of the net proceeds of the banquets go back into the state it was raised in. In New York the program approved/funded 1,118 grants totaling $2,645,410.07. These grants support local programs related to law enforcement, Firearm Education and Training, hunter safety, wildlife conservation and programs for women, youth and individuals with physical disabilities.
Sullivan County Friends of the NRA fundraisers usually net well over $25,000.
Chairperson Gagliardi thanked NRA volunteer Mike Langston, who substituted for, upstate New York NRA Field Representative Jay Rusnock, for the NRA’s help with the fundraiser. He thanked those who made the event possible including donors and underwriters and the committee members for their hard work.
Gagliardi then recognized the VIPs in attendance including veterans, law enforcement personnel, elected state and local officials, local dignitaries and pro-gun Congressional Candidate Chris Gibson.
The affable Gagliardi announced his retirement as Chairman of the Committee, “But I will be here to help raise more dollars for the NRA.”
Incoming Chairman James Hemmer presented an award from the committee to Gagliardi in recognition of his years of leadership.
That was not the only award Gagliardi garnered. NRA Field Representative volunteer Michael Langston presented a “Silver Bullet” award to Gagliardi for his years of service to the organization.
Everyone checked his or her tickets when the auction began. Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty and his wife Tammi won the “Pick of the Litter” drawing which entitled them to their choice of the Friends of the NRA Live Auction items, including two collectible firearms, prior to the opening of bidding. The Chabotys choose item #17, a one-of-a kind NRA Army Pedal Jeep for their son and daughter Wyatt, 2, and Savannah, 4. Tammi Chaboty revealed, “I thought Eric would pick one of the guns, but he said ‘The Jeep! I really wanted this jeep!’ Our kids will love it.”
The first ticket on the popular “Wall of Guns” was pulled from the bucket of entries by NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Chairperson of the NYS Assembly’s Bi-Partisan Sportsman’s Caucus. The lucky winner was Joan Heitczman whose husband, Carmen, chose an M&P 15.22 from the wall. Mrs. Heitczman joked, “I won it, but he picked it!”
The raffles, prizes, and auction items from generous donors and underwriters caused the crowd to enter into a healthy competition. There was brisk bidding on the “Build your own gun” kits.
Douglas Abplanalp, owner of Progressive Physical Therapy in Liberty, won one do-it-yourself kit, and Derek Schmidt, owner of Liberty based Eastern Electrical Contractors, won the “Build Your Own AR-15 Kit.”
Schmidt said, “I’ve never built a gun before, but I’m looking forward to it.”
At the end of the auction, firearms buyers and winners lined up to have their purchases transferred to them through Federal Firearm licensee John S. Van Etten of Liberty in accordance with all local, state, and federal requirements.
Editor’s Note: Sharon Space-Bamberger is an NRA member who has a NYS Concealed Carry Pistol Permit. She is a retired social worker, and the widow of a retired NYPD Officer.