Central Florida Ridge Friends of NRA Nationally Recognized for Its Achievements
by James Coulter
In 1992, the Central Florida Ridge Friends of NRA, the local chapter of the Friends of NRA, started humbly with a small banquet in a pole barn in a lone cow pasture east of Lake Wales.Nearly 26 years later, their annual fundraiser has expanded to Lake Eva Event Center in Haines City with more than 550 attendees and raising more than $75,000 at last year’s event.
Last year, their annual fundraiser raised $75,553 with less than 500 guests in attendance, ranking them as fourth in the state for funds and first for attendance. Such prestigious numbers have allowed the Central Florida Ridge Friends of NRA and its annual banquet to be nationally recognized among the 1,100 events in the U.S. and the 27 in the state.
Ron Pratt, Central Florida Ridge Chairman and Event Organizer, was recognized as the Florida Friends of NRA Volunteer of the Year. He owes his success to their hard work and effort, especially during these uncertain times. Their chapter alone sold more than 400 raffle calendars annually. The calendars, selling for $50 each, awarded two guns per week, throughout the year, to lucky winners, he said.
“No one else did, so it amounts to good old honest hard work,” Pratt said.
The Central Florida Ridge Friends of NRA is a non-profit chapter of the Florida Friends of NRA, a separate and independent foundation of the National Rifle Association. Their organization raises money specifically to facilitate educational programs that aim to teach children gun safety and promote shooting sports.
501c3 organizations such as local schools and chapters of the Boy Scouts apply for grants for hands-on equipment for these programs. Twice a year, a grant meeting is hosted to award money or products from the NRA to these organizations for their respective programs.
To help raise proceeds for these efforts, the Friends of NRA host fundraisers, with approximately 20,000 events with 4.1 million attendees, 740 million raised, 335 million in funds awarded, and 42 thousand grants, explained Pratt.
“These numbers are astounding considering it takes individuals who donate their time to do all of this because there are no administration fees,” Pratt said. “That is the bottom line. The kids get what we raise. If we don’t raise money, if we don’t do our job, then they don’t get taught.”
Pratt owes his local chapter’s success to their hard work. As a retiree, he works full time to support his organization’s efforts 12 months out of the year. As he explained: “The fact that I am one person out of 1,100 makes it prestigious to say I was awarded this.”
As for the award, he was honored to receive it on behalf of his chapter. However, he knows that he is one out of many members whose efforts make them successful in their endeavors. In the end, everything they do is about the betterment of their local community through education on gun safety.
“It was unexpected,” he said. “I don’t do it for the prestige. I do it because I like it. If we can teach one child not to point a gun at his sister and pull the trigger, and it saves a life, it is worth all my time.”