ATWOOD — The Atwood-Hammond Little League will be reaping the benefits of its gun raffle sooner than expected.
League Commissioner Steve McClain said the fundraiser for the AR-15 rifle has brought in nearly $29,000, with more than two months left before the drawing takes place.
McClain said the original plan was to wait until after the Little League season ends in late June before spending any of the money raised.
But he now said that that process will begin before the games get underway.
"So many people are asking, 'Hey, what are you doing, when are you going to do stuff?' They know the money is there already, so people are wanting to see things," he said. "We're going to be putting in a new T-ball diamond. We've got four teams right now that play on one diamond. A lot of times the kids are out playing in the grass, so we're really wanting to get that extra diamond put in here in the next month or so, before games actually start."
New equipment for the players and teams will also be bought, as well as upgrades to concession-stand equipment.
McClain said the Atwood Village Board is expected to give final approval to building a new field next Monday, after the project got approval from the park board this Monday.
He said people are also offering to volunteer to help build the new field.
The drawing for the AR-15 will take place on June 29.
Four times a year, the Atwood Armory, a gun shop in rural Douglas County, raffles off an AR-15 to benefit a local charity. The business is selling $20 raffle tickets for its April-June fundraiser for youth baseball in Atwood and Hammond.
The prize being raffled includes the firearm and ammunition and is valued at more than $2,000, said Charidy Butcher, who owns the business in rural Atwood with her husband, Bryan.
"We donate a portion of it. What we do is offer it to them at our cost, and then we kick in $500 and some other stuff that goes with it, so they end up paying a small portion for it," Butcher said.
Interest in the raffle spread even before the tickets became available. McClain said earlier that he'd heard from Alaska and Florida.
"You name a state, and we've probably gotten interest from there," he said in March.
"Whoever wins, everything will be done legally. They'll have to go through the background check," Butcher said in March, "just as if they were walking in off the street and purchasing it."