When an Atlanta news station came to Dawsonville last week to find more information on a booster club raffle, parents, coaches and residents were surprised that the fundraising effort would generate that kind of coverage.
The story was due to the fact that the booster club for the Dawson County High School soccer team was raffling off a semi-automatic rifle that was donated by the Appalachian Armory.
The coverage has only helped the fundraising efforts.
"We sold $800 tickets last night after the news came out," said Head Coach Jed Lacey.
"It's the greatest thing that ever happened to us," Lacey said. "It's all legal. We are the fourth team to do it."
Several Dawson County programs have used gun raffles to raise significant funds and have done so with success, as well as with the support of athletes' families and the community.
"We are having no problem with sales," said Tracy Callas whose daughter plays on the varsity soccer team. "People are contacting us to buy them. I have people wanting to buy them from other states.
"It all started because of those that oppose," she said. "These people forget, Dawson is a very pro-gun county."
Callas said that she has her own carry permit and that she is pro-gun. She also emphasized that it is legal and a background check is required if your ticket is drawn.
The wrestling team at Dawson County High School held a raffle in December of last year for a Remington 870 shot gun and wrestling Coach Arron Haynes said it was a success for his program.
"I feel like the wrestling team had nothing but support and excitement from not only our parents, but the community," he said. "As a matter of fact, it ended up being one the best fundraisers we have had in the 18 years I have been here.
"I feel like the fuss is over the fact that they are raffling a rifle that ‘looks' like an assault rifle, however it is not an assault rifle. I feel like most people were ok with us raffling a shotgun because it is traditionally seen as more of a hunting firearm."
Haynes said that he thinks the uproar is ridiculous as the firearms never come on campus at any point and winners must pass a full background check.
"All fundraisers are geared to providing a product that the community is interested in," Haynes said. "We are as a whole still a community that enjoys things like hunting and fishing so we raffled something that the community was and is interested in."
He also said one teacher expressed concern during the wrestling team raffle, but that was alleviated when she learned that the shotgun would never be on campus.
The Dawsonville Civitan Club held their own 12 days of Christmas Gun Raffle that gave away 12 guns over a 12-day period. The proceeds of that raffle are to benefit the special education programs in Dawson County, specifically to add inclusive playground equipment for kids with disabilities to Veterans Park.
In the fall of 2015, the DCHS football team raffled a Browning x bolt hog stalker .308.
Lacey said that he has received phone calls from people as far away as Pennsylvania.
He also got a phone call from a man who wanted to buy $500 in tickets because he supports the second amendment and also wanted to support the soccer program.
"It was a non-issue," said Amanda Yenerall, another soccer mom whose son plays for the junior varsity and varsity programs. "It was surprising to me that it was even a headline. It's legal. It's a fundraiser. The soccer team deserves it...anything to support our kids."
The tickets for the soccer program are being sold exclusively by the parents of the players and no one was required to sell the tickets, according to Lacey.
"You don't have to sell anything," Lacey said. "All you had to do was walk up to me and say I don't want to sell them.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of my parents don't care. They are geeked out we are making this much money on this."
"The sales on this raffle are going to exceed anything we have ever done for the soccer team," Callas said.
The tickets for the raffle are $5 each and the drawing will be held during the first varsity soccer home game that is scheduled for Feb. 7 versus Hart County.