• Susan Flanagan

Christmas Raffle Returns | The Kids are Alright | Nov. 20, 2012

I wouldn`t miss the Santa Claus Parade for all the Lambs at the liquor store.


As I mentioned a few columns back Dad’s office was above the Family Barber Shop across from the War Memorial on Duckworth Street so all of us children would watch in anticipation from the second-storey window for the first float to appear. Then we’d beat it down the splintery stairs to watch the procession. I was terrified of a clown named Boob who knew Dad and used to thwock me with his belly knocker. I’d want to race back upstairs and watch the rest of the parade from the safety of the window.


This year on Sunday, November 25, not only can we look forward to the Santa Claus Parade but also the official kick-off of the 2012 Old Fashioned Christmas Raffle. If you’re among the thousands of people watching the parade on Water Street, pop in to 336 Water (a few doors west of Bistro Sophia) and your mind will be carried back to another raffle from another time. Like the Mount Cashel Raffle before it, all proceeds from the Old Fashioned Christmas Raffle go to charity - The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and Opera on the Avalon.

Two years ago when the idea of an Old Fashioned Christmas Raffle was conceived, Elaine Dobbin, patron of the The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, asked Cheryl Hickman, founder and Artistic Director of Opera on the Avalon (OOTA) to partner with Autism as she thought they were a worthy cause and they could add value in terms of organizing and volunteers.


OOTA is an annual festival held in June which brings world-renowned teachers in the opera world to mentor young emerging artists who also come from all over. The participants immerse themselves in lessons and master classes and the festival culminates in two fully-staged operas complete with sets, costumes and orchestra. The event is a great opportunity for young artists and it has brought opera to our province.


Gerrie Nicholas, event organizer and volunteer, says preparing for and running the raffle has been a moving experience.


“The first year I went to distribute posters at RONA (which used to be Chester Dawe) - if you've ever been you know they have long-standing employees who have been there forever - when I mentioned the old Mount Cashel Raffle, this man`s eyes lit up and he started talking about the sawdust on the floor, live turkeys and how the raffle was part of everyone's Christmas tradition,” says Nicholas. “Then a group assembled because they too had fond memories to share. It was magical,” says the only non-townie on the Raffle committee. “Having grown up in Carbonear I was not familiar with the raffle. I have come to know it through the eyes and stories of those I've come in contact with,” says Nicholas. “One man at RONA told me his mother worked at Mount Cashel as a caregiver to the orphans. Her work there was enriching and when they closed she continued to nurture the boys.”


Don O’Keefe grew up at Mount Cashel and worked at that raffle from the age of seven until it closed in the 1980s.


“I was there during the Second World War ringing the bell,” says O’Keefe. “In later years I sold tickets and did the microphone bit. I had to repeat the same thing every 30 seconds.

Two for 5, Four for 10, Women can do it as well as the men or Don’t pass by, come in and try.”


Try your luck to win a frozen chicken, turkey or ham is what O’Keefe is referring to. “Later on when we realized Mom and Dad wanted to win something for the children, we started bringing in teddy bears and stuffed toys,” says O’Keefe who basically ran the raffle some years. “The Christian Brothers came and went every four years, but I was there all the time. They’d come to me and say, ‘What’s on the go here?’”


Ron Coady who grew up on Newtown Road remembers going to the Raffle as a child. “You’d go inside and it’d be jampacked. There’d be fellas spinning the wheel shouting, ‘2 for a nickel, 4 for a dime’. It was always hot in there with live turkeys and a mess of tickets and sawdust on the floor.” After Coady married he used to bring his own children to the raffle. “I took the two kids down one year and after spending $180, I still had nothing,” says Coady. “Don O’Keefe took me aside and said, ‘I’ll sell you anything for $5.’”


The Raffle meant a lot to O’Keefe. “After I moved out I still knew the boys who were still residents and saw them growing up right up to the ‘80s. I was going back home every time I went to the raffle. I felt at home.”


Dobbin says many people have fond memories of the Mount Cashel Raffle and love the fact that the raffle has been brought back even if only for a few days and different cause. “One couple came in and said their grandparents started taking them to the raffle,” says Dobbin. “But they never had the opportunity to share it with their children, so they were thrilled to now share such happy memories with their grandchildren.”


“I attend a lot of fund raisers,” says Dobbin. “But this one is different because it is unsophisticated. Better still it's affordable for everyone and a reminder that fun can be in simple things.”

So here are the goods on this year’s raffle. It’ll only be downtown one day – Sunday, November 25, 11 am – 4 pm. Then it’ll be at the Avalon Mall next to the fireplace in the food court for two days – Sat, Dec 8th 11-9 and 9th noon-5.


The average time between spins is 8 min but the bigger the crowd, the faster the spins. There are 4 events going on:


1. Wheel Spin-tickets are 50 cents -winner gets to pick from assortment of prizes of giftware and toys. Every 15 min we spin for a turkey or pail of salt meat donated by Terra Nova Foods (works like the Regatta spins).


2. Daily Hamper Draw-$5 ticket for a chance to win a Christmas food hamper (Christmas dinner and all trimmings)


3. Prize Draw: $5 ticket- 3 winners drawn at close on Dec 9. Prizes include Christmas Tree and Wreath decorated by Eric White including 12 Fabulously wrapped gifts, a 42" LG LCD Flat Screen TV donated by Sears and LG and a Chest Freezer also donated by Sears.


4. Car Draw: $1 ticket for 2013 Hyundai Accent (4 door) drawn on Dec 11

If you’d like to help out with the raffle, call the Autism Centre 722-2803. You can help out all the regular volunteers including the staff of Pipers Stores and Targa Race organizers.


You might even be lucky enough to spot a celebrity. In past years Snook (Pete Soucy), Andy Jones, Mary Walsh and Fergus O'Byrne have all made appearances.


Susan Flanagan can’t wait to visit the raffle. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

Mount Cashel feedback:

Karen writes: “Thanks for this story! I have fond memories of the Mount Cashel Raffle! I remember Dad taking myself and my brothers to the Raffle on winter evenings, what a time we'd have! I'm hoping I'll get a chance to run in with my kids this year, while we're waiting for the parade to start. I'd like for them to have that experience too, and of course, the Autism Society is certainly a worthy cause.”

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