Fundraiser set for Oct. 14 at VFW

By Tucker Henderson


With less than a month away, the New York Mills High School Close Up Program is gearing up for a fundraiser that is entirely new to the community.

The Close Up members, along with the NYM Booster Club, will host a Designer Purse Bingo at the NY Mills VFW on Saturday, Oct. 14. The fundraiser has been a success in neighboring communities, so Jason Boe, NY Mills Close Up leader, thought it would be a good opportunity for Close Up members to try in NY Mills as well.

The NY Mills High School has been working with the Close Up organization since their first trip in 1990 and has sponsored dozens of trips over the past 33 years. The organization provides a trip of a lifetime for students to see their government at work in Washington D.C. and also spend some time in New York City.

“1990 was the first trip,” said Boe. “We went every year up through the 90s and starting in the early 2000s, we started going every other year just to help kids make more money instead of going every year, so we could fundraise for two years.”

The Close Up trip will be taking place from April 7-14. This includes five days in the nation’s capital and two days in New York City. Boe said that he tries to schedule it inbetween sports seasons, so that everyone is able to attend the trip. He said that the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in the springtime as well, so it’s a beautiful time to see the East Coast.

“It allows students to go to D.C. to see how the government works,” said Boe. “To get up and personal with all the historical monuments that are out there, we get to talk to our representatives and our senators while we’re there and just to see how government works.

“It also includes a trip to NY City as well,” he continued. “We go five days in D.C. and then we go about two days in New York City to see what it has to offer. The biggest thing that comes to mind is the 9/11 memorial that is there. We get to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, we go to a Broadway play, Times Square, the United Nations—see how things work. It’s an incredible trip.”

Boe has many favorite memories from his trips over the years. He said that his favorite part of the trip is the kids and their reactions to the new experiences.

“Having them see something I know they haven’t seen before,” said Boe, “We drive from D.C. to NY City and once you drive into the city, it’s like a whole different world. It makes the Twin Cities look like a village. Just seeing their reactions—that’s what excites me the most.”

Boe still hears stories from past students who have graduated about their rich memories of the trip and the friends they made along the way.

“We’re included with other schools on the trip,” said Boe. “We room with other schools. It’s not a vacation, we don’t just go sightseeing. They take us to these places and they teach. At night, they have a mock-Congress and they have kids debate and talk about current issues. So, it’s school, it’s actually rigorous. At least one day I take the kids off the program so they can have just a day to take a break and we take a walk. In the past we’ve been to Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated.”

As the trip can prove to be costly, students are able to fundraise for two years to cover their trip expenses. Boe sets up as many fundraisers as he can in order to help his students to raise their expense goals.

“We’ve done all sorts of things, we’ve sold coffee, we work at concessions stands, we did a babysitter fundraiser last Christmas and watched kids while people went Christmas shopping,” he said. 

Any junior or senior is eligible to attend the trip. Boe said that even though they’ve been fundraising for over a year, if someone is still interested in joining, they are welcome to attend. Currently, there are 13 students and families involved in the upcoming Close Up trip, all of whom will be helping out at the Purse Bingo in October.

“Everybody’s working, so it will be divvied up amongst the 13 students,” Boe said. “I like to do as much as I can to help defray the cost. It’s an expensive trip.”

This coming spring will be Boe’s fourth trip as the program leader. He said that he gratefully follows after retired teachers Jay Sorenson and Jo Rudnitski, who pioneered the program in NY Mills. He started in 2010 and then took a hiatus from the program after his children were born. This will be the first trip from NY Mills since 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on things for the past few years.

Nowadays, with costs increasing, funds are always sought out to cover the trip expenses of the students.

“Everything has gone up in price,” said Boe. “So we look at different things to raise money with. Our local groups have been wonderful. Our Lions, Lund Boats, and KLN from Perham.”

Donations that have been earmarked for the cause will go towards purchasing the designer purses, but anybody who is interested is welcome to donate a designer purse or to sponsor the program. Several parents and community members have already pledged volunteer hours and purses for the fundraiser.

“This has been successful in other communities, so we’re going to give it a try,” said Boe. “I’d like to pass it on to another group next year if they want to do it. This trip is every two years, so if there’s another group that wants to do it, go ahead.

“Many groups have donated to our cause, and the VFW is one of them,” he continued. “It makes sense that we have this purse bingo at the VFW because what they do and what they represent, it’s basically what this trip is all about.”

Tickets for the Bingo are currently being sold at the VFW Clubhouse as well as in the NY Mills School District Office. Tickets are priced at $50 which includes a taco bar and 20 games of bingo. There will also be split-the-pot games and a silent auction with a variety of gift baskets. A total of 250 tickets are being sold and those interested in attending are encouraged to purchase their ticket before they sell out.

“I can’t say it enough how helpful the VFW has been,” said Boe. “They already have bingos over there anyway, so it just kind of worked out.”