Tuscola athletics’ Big T drawdown made a triumphant return Saturday night. The event, run by the Big T Boosters club and hosted in the high school cafeteria, raised $28,250 total for Tuscola’s various athletic programs.

This was the first time in five years the event was run. Patrons could buy two steak dinners and an entry in the drawdown for $100; roughly 400 people were present. At the end of the night, tickets were continually drawn and eliminated, some winning door prizes donated by various businesses, with the first-place ticket winning a $5,000 cash prize, second place winning $1,000 and third place winning $500. In addition, a number of donated items were auctioned off throughout the night, raising a total of $3,250.

The drawdown itself raised $15,000, and the top three ticket holders, Jimmy Rogers, Doug McCracken and Russell Gilliland agreed to split the prize money evenly.

“We’re really pleased with it,” Big T communications officer Raife Davis said. “We’re hoping to make it another staple for the future. We’re hoping to grow it even larger each year with coaches involvement a little more next year, and hopefully teachers and the community. It’s a good way to bring all the sports together and the community and school together, and hopefully make a lot of money once a year.”

The event also included a mega 50/50 raffle. Tickets were sold throughout the community months in advance, with the raffle’s prize growing to about $20,000.

The winner, Rodger McEntire, took home half the prize, with the other half ($10,000) going to Tuscola athletics.

“It’s been enormous,” Big T Club President Rhonda Buchanan said. “We can’t say how pleased we are with all the turnout that we’ve had. The community has gotten behind us. We really did a last-minute plan of this so we haven’t really had a lot of time to get into our drawdown. But we wanted to re-establish it, we wanted to make it part of our tradition again and get back to some of our roots and traditions. The community stepped up, they came out to support us and they’ve been wonderful to support all of our fundraising efforts we’ve been doing.”

The money that the Big T Club raises mostly goes to “extra costs” for the athletic programs. Rather than normal expenditures such as uniforms, it is spent on things like extra equipment, or replacing broken equipment.

“It’s huge,” Tuscola Athletic Director Michael Belue said. “We really appreciate the community pouring back into us. It takes a lot of money to run athletic programs that are not all revenue programs as far as the sports teams go. We really want to give our student athletes the best that we can, and this goes a long way to making that happen.”

A number of Tuscola coaches and athletes attended the drawdown. After opening remarks from Buchanan and other Big T members, along with the drawing from the 50/50 raffle, the crowd got to hear a moving speech from the evening’s special guest.

Perry Tuttle, who won a national championship with Clemson football, played three seasons in the NFL and now serves as the Charlotte Hornets’ team chaplain, spoke about the impact of his elementary school football coach on his life, and the important role coaches play in developing student athletes as both players and people.

The steak dinner, provided by Clyde’s Restaurant, was served by members of the Tuscola football and volleyball teams, giving community supporters a chance to interact with the athletes.

“This event is huge, not only financially for our athletic department and for our boosters club,” Belue said. “But it’s also huge in that it gives the community one of those rare opportunities to mingle with the athletes. They see them on the court, they see them on the field, but it really means something for these people, especially the alumni that played here to get to come back and stir some memories as they see the athletes that are here today.”

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