Editorial: Don't forget the real winners of VFW raffle - veterans
So it begins.
For the next several days, the frenzy at McHenry VFW Post 4600 will rise toward a crescendo next Tuesday, when a game that started in November 2016 will come to an enforced close. Over the course of all those weekly drawings -- including one "reset" when the second joker was revealed -- the elusive Queen of Hearts has stayed hidden. With hysteria mounting as the number of cards remaining in the 54-card deck dwindled, the pressure on VFW volunteers and village resources has led to the decision to close out the game once and for all. With just seven cards remaining, if the first one drawn Tuesday doesn't find the queen -- and the $7,080,528 she brings with her -- officials will keep drawing until she appears.
Now, Dwane Lungren, commander of Post 4600, says he expects sales -- at six tickets for $5 -- to reach $200,000 a day. Only last July, sales ranged from $200,00 to $300,000 a week to people hoping to win the 60 percent of a pot that grew with every inconclusive drawing.
These are surely exciting times -- if also exhausting -- for the post and for the community. But amid such a fervor, it can be easy to overlook the purpose of the raffle -- to help fund improvements at the post and provide support for veterans.
For Post 4600, that involves a sure $1,416,105.60 -- 20 percent of the pot -- which should provide a nice boost for VFW programs. With great success, however, come daunting challenges. In addition to the strains on local police and municipal services and on the post's long-suffering volunteers, the massive amount of new revenues could provide increased demands on financial oversight and distribution, and the post may find that the expectations of its clientele will bring increasing pressures on folks whose primary interest has been just to provide some meaningful help to fellow veterans in an atmosphere of empathy and camaraderie.
The raffle is regulated through local village ordinances along with oversight from the state Department of Revenue. But it seems natural to wonder whether the success of this event and the growth of similar fundraising games at veterans posts around the state shouldn't attract increasingly close scrutiny.
These, of course, are musings on discomforts that may await in the future. For now, it's only too fitting to congratulate the members and leaders of Post 4600, to thank the volunteers who undoubtedly never expected to have to work this hard and to remember if you dive into the excitement of the game's final week, that the point is not to make one person instantly wealthy. It's to provide needed fellowship and services to men and women who have served their country. It is they, we must fervently hope, who will be the ultimate winners of the McHenry VFW Post 4600 Queen of Hearts raffle.