Is there a civic nonprofit in Arizona more altruistic and philanthropic than the Mogollon Sporting Association?
Since MSA’s founding 24 years ago, the organization has doled out more than $2 million to youth programs and wildlife-conservation projects in the Rim Country.
Just a few years ago, MSA donated $14,000 to various Payson school district programs and another $10,000 in matching money to help fund a water catchment project in the Tonto National Forest.
A few years later, MSA donated $6,500-plus to purchase a high jump pit for the Payson High School track team, a portable backstop for the baseball team and SmartBoards at Frontier Elementary School. MSA also donated $1,000 to pay for PHS wrestling officials. In 2011, MSA granted $9,000 in matching funds to help the PHS band purchase new uniforms.
It’s not unusual for the MSA to enlist student-athletes to help out with conservation projects. Years ago, a group of PHS wrestlers helped rebuild a fence and watershed east of Payson. The pay they received went into the wrestling club fund.
The association has also footed the bill for trout stockings in Green Valley Park just prior to the annual Wildlife Fair.
MSA has purchased metal detectors for Game and Fish officers to use in investigating poaching, and bought an herbicide spray unit and trailer to be used in the effort to eradicate noxious weeds in the forest.
In funding outdoor conservation projects, the MSA often teams with other organizations including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Bowhunters Association and the Wildlife Conservation Council.
In addition to the annual donations, the association funds the Ted Pettet Scholarships that go to a pair of outstanding graduating PHS seniors who have participated in extracurricular activities.
The two scholarships are worth $2,000 each.
The list of donations goes on and on because providing financial help to local schools, youth programs and wildlife projects has been MSA’s mission since former Payson mayors Craig Swartwood, Ted Pettet and others helped found the organization following a meeting with former PUSD Superintendent Ron Sipus and then-Tonto Forest District Ranger Steve Gunzel.
The money MSA donates is raised mostly at its yearly banquets, auctions and raffles that traditionally take place in the spring at the Mazatzal Casino and are considered the most festive in the Rim Country if not the state.
MSA members, including President Jack Koon, ask little in recognition for their tireless work, but their accomplishments have not gone unnoticed around the state.
In 2006, the Arizona Game and Fish Department bestowed the MSA with statewide recognition as the Conservation Organization of the Year.
In August 2005, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, the MSA was inducted into the Outdoor Hall of Fame. At the time, Steve Hirsch, president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation that sponsors the Arizona Hall of Fame, said MSA was chosen because of the contributions the organization makes in the Rim Country. “The Mogollon Sporting Association is a perfect example of how a group of dedicated individuals can have a very positive effect on wildlife and people as well,”
“Their program to utilize youth volunteer labor not only gets the job done, but also instills an appreciation for the great outdoors in these young people.”
Also, one of the MSA founders — Gary Barcom — a Payson man, long known for his conservation efforts and civic contributions, was in 2008 inducted into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame.
Barcom has also received the MSA’s Legacy Award as has Pettet.
It annually goes to a person — not necessarily an MSA member — who contributes significantly and unselfishly to the Rim Country’s environment, education, conservation and economy.
Among those who have praised the MSA and its members is former Payson High School wrestling coach and teacher Dennis Pirch, a former Legacy Award winner and a tireless worker in the cause of conservation.
“If it is good for kids and funds are a little short, the MSA will step up to the plate and make it happen,” he said. “That’s just the kind of people they are.”
Former Payson High band director Daria Mason has also lauded the MSA saying, “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing,” she said. “They are absolutely essential to our (band) success and to that of many others in our schools and in the town.”
Former PHS softball coach and Rim Country Middle School principal Will Dunman, whose programs received several donations from MSA , frequently praised the association calling it “a tremendous asset to our community and our schools.”