High schools find unusual ways to raise money

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- That smell coming from Jefferson County High School's football stadium this fall? Let's just say it may not be the hot dogs. Those cheers from the crowd? Not for the team. In fact, the players won't even be on the field. They'll be on the sideline, rooting. For what? One lonely cow wandering a 100-yard field in search of a place to heed nature's call.

Where the bovine ultimately decides to do her business will mean big bucks for the lucky person who bet on that portion of the field.

It's all part of a local charity's Oct. 16 "Cow Drop Raffle" to raise money for equipment to stock the football team's weightlifting room.

The Dandridge event is one of many planned by charities across the state now that the General Assembly has permitted gambling fund-raisers by certain nonprofit organizations.

Seventy-one charities received the OK from the state Senate last week to host events. They likely will be approved next week by the House.

Charities have jumped with enthusiasm -- and creativity -- on the new way to raise cash, with events ranging from the staid to the quirky to the outright smelly.

Among them, a golf ball drop from a helicopter, about a half-dozen duck races down various Tennessee waterways, and a "Celebrity Waiter Dinner" in Lafayette.

Jefferson County High School athletic director Craig Kisabeth proposed the "Cow Drop Raffle" after seeing similar successful events in other states.

"It's a novelty," the former football coach said. "Some smaller towns shut down entirely during that time."

Participants pay $20 to buy a square on the football field, which organizers will mark off with string. The top prize, though not finalized yet, will be in the "thousands of dollars," Kisabeth said.

As for finding the right cow, Kisabeth says they will "probably do research to find out which is the most regular."

"That way we won't have to worry about waiting too long," he said.

But what happens if she poops on a line between two squares? Kisabeth assures there will be "certain rules to cover as many scenarios as we can think of, but I'm not in charge of weighing the amount on this side or that!"

And -- not to worry, animal lovers -- the cow won't be fed anything extra to speed up the process.

"We'll just wait for the cow to do what cows do naturally," said Frank Clamon, another of the event's organizers.

The "Cow Drop" won't be the only East Tennessee fund-raiser that day featuring falling objects. Some 30 miles west, the Sertoma Center in Knoxville plans a drop of its own -- this one involving golf balls.

For a set fee, participants will add their name to a golf ball which will be dumped from a hovering helicopter onto the driving range of Fairways & Greens Golf Center. The participant whose ball hits or comes closest to a target -- be that a hole or some other point -- will win a luxury car.

While it sounds a bit dangerous, Sertoma executive director Becky Duncan Massey says the event will be quite safe since observers will be stationed far enough away to avoid being pinged on the head.

"(The helicopter's) not going to be real super-high, but I imagine it would be the height of four-story building," Massey said. "We're going to have it roped off ... because they say they'll bounce some."

Farther north in Gatlinburg, the United Way of Sevier County plans a charity river race similar to one in Knoxville involving rubber ducks, but with a twist -- or perhaps bite.

Sharks will replace ducks in a race to the finish along the Pigeon River, which meanders through the heart of Gatlinburg, one of Tennessee's most popular tourist destinations. The rubber shark that swims the fastest will win a to-be-determined prize -- likely a car of some sort -- for the person who paid $5 to adopt it, said Lisa Butler Tarwater, the group's executive director.

"We're trying to market it not only to our community but to tourists," Tarwater said. "We're hoping for a big marketing blitz."