Ducks Unlimited's Top Ten Events of 2022: Traditional Income

The foundation of Ducks Unlimited’s success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of its local fundraising chapters and the professional field staff who partner with them

The foundation of Ducks Unlimited’s success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of its local fundraising chapters and the professional field staff who partner with them. During Fiscal Year 2022, chapters across the country continued to face challenges from the pandemic, but enterprising DU volunteers still found a way to make it a record-breaking year for grassroots fundraising. The following Top 10 events brought in the largest traditional net income totals for the year via auctions, raffles, games, underwriting, and membership dues from regular members and sponsors.

#1: South Carolina−East Cooper Chapter

Event: 25th Annual Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Cookout at SEWE

Area Chair: Dr. Mark Hartley

Senior Regional Director: James Meadows

Director of Development: Will Johnson

Chapter Success: $331,824

The East Cooper chapter hosted its 25th Annual Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Cookout at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) on February 18, 2022. With more than 1,400 attendees, this year’s event was another tremendous success. This unique gathering has a deep history and partnership with SEWE, a festival that brings thousands of conservation-minded people to Charleston every year.

“After not being able to host an in-person event in 2021, the East Cooper chapter was excited to return to in-person operations in 2022,” said Area Chair Dr. Mark Hartley. “Although we faced lingering covid-based attendance restrictions, the committee took this as a challenge and produced record-breaking numbers at our event.”

(From left) Regional Director James Meadows, Michael Ashenfelter, Cliff Edler, Area Chair Dr. Mark Hartley, Jane Edler, Ryan Moscow, Chip Aydlette, Caroline Seabrook, Heather Aydlette, Alice Seabrook, Lewis Seabrook, Victoria Letts, Lisa Benson, and Stephen Hardman were part of the team that planned and hosted the spectacular 25th Annual DU Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Cookout at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina.

#2: Florida–Lakeland Chapter

Event: Lakeland 100 Evening of Conservation

Area Chairs: Greg Masters and Rob Springer

Senior Regional Director: Brett Bainter

Directors of Development: Shawn Battison and Teresa Wilkins

Chapter Success: $269,450

The Lakeland 100 Evening of Conservation was organized by a select group of passionate DU volunteers and supporters. Their vison focused on gathering a group of 100 conservation-minded individuals to raise philanthropic revenue for DU’s wetlands and waterfowl conservation mission. The evening featured a keynote presentation from DU CEO and native Floridian Adam Putnam and offered high-quality firearms, hunting trips, and other unique items through a live auction that raised over $250,000 for the ducks.

According to Chair Greg Masters: “Our local DU chapter does a great job engaging young sportsmen and women and local businesses with a banquet accessible to all. Our vision for the Lakeland 100 Evening of Conservation was to host an exclusive, one-of-a-kind event for community leaders who have the ability to support DU at the next level. This event shows that we can accomplish big things when a great community and a great cause come together.”

#3: Texas–Ellis County Chapter

Event: Ellis County Dinner #1

Area Chair: John Reagan

Senior Regional Director: Russ Hawley

Director of Development: Bob Locke

Chapter Success: $250,627

The Ellis County committee and supporters are truly among the greatest in the country. As DU chapters continued to face pandemic-related challenges, these dedicated volunteers executed not one, but two extremely successful dinner events when the ducks needed it the most. They do not take no for an answer and continue to strive for excellence.

 “We have a long-standing and tremendous volunteer group, which has worked together for years, and we throw the party of the year for the best DU supporters around, many of whom have attended for over 20 years,” said Area Chair John Reagan. “We know what our patrons want and look to one-up ourselves year after year to make a bigger and better event for a sold-out crowd of close to 1,000 attendees!”

#4: California–Blackhawk Chapter

Event: 10th Anniversary Diamond Gala

Area Chairs: Paul Bonderson Jr., David Grieve, and Pepper Snyder

Senior Regional Director: Frank Leonardi

Senior Director of Development: Anne Hansen

Chapter Success: $247,757

After a two-year hiatus, more than 200 DU members, guests, and volunteers gathered in person to celebrate the 10th Anniversary Diamond Gala at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, California. Pepper Snyder was the 2022 event honoree. Snyder is a champion of conservation, and his leadership, generosity, and philanthropy have had a major impact on wetlands and waterfowl in California and beyond.

“We were thrilled to finally gather together in person again,” said past DU President and event co-chair Paul Bonderson Jr. “Our 10th Anniversary Gala was a resounding success due in large part to my good friend Pepper Snyder.”

#5: North Carolina–Charlotte Chapter

Event: Charlotte Fall Gala

Area Chair: Nick Barringer

Regional Director: Jon Sturgill

Director of Development: Will Johnson

Chapter Success: $247,210

The Charlotte chapter’s success starts with incredible leadership, executive committee involvement, volunteers, and generous support from both corporate sponsors and attendees. Area Chair Nick Barringer credits teamwork for the Charlotte chapter’s success, including his committee, sponsors, attendees, and staff.

“Everyone played such an integral part in our success,” Barringer said. “The collaboration with Will Johnson, the development director for our region, over the past few years has helped lay a solid foundation to help secure corporate leaders each year. This helps set the tone for the evening and creates an environment where others want to be included.”

#6: Delaware–Appoquinimink Chapter

Event: 17th Annual Appoquinimink Spring Fling

Area Chair: Danielle Lester

Regional Director: Taylor Deemer

Director of Development: Jake McPherson

Chapter Success: $237,952

The Appoquinimink Spring Fling is held annually on the second Saturday of June at the Delaware State Fairgrounds. The event offers entry tickets for over 80 prizes, which are drawn over the course of seven hours. Prizes range from campers to new trucks to a grand prize of $100,000. Throughout the event, silent auctions, table-decorating contests, and dozens of side raffles for firearms, cash, and Yeti coolers take place to keep the nearly 1,500 attendees entertained.

Area Chair Danielle Lester spoke to the success of this year’s gathering: “It feels good to be back in person after two years of being virtual! I’m grateful for our partnership with the Townsend Fire Company and proud of my committee’s hard work and dedication to making this our biggest year yet.”

#7: Delaware–Brandywine Chapter

Event: 50th Anniversary Fall Sportsman’s Banquet

Area Chairs: Jeff Shahan and Adam DiSabatino

Regional Director: Taylor Deemer

Senior Director of Development: Chip Heaps

Chapter Success: $193,424

The Brandywine DU Sportsman’s Banquet is held annually on the second Thursday of October at the Vicmead Hunt Club in Wilmington, Delaware. This year’s event welcomed 500 attendees for a night of cigar and whiskey sampling, raw oysters, wild game hors d’oeuvres, raffles, live and silent auctions, and live bluegrass entertainment. Being the 50th anniversary, the committee presented special dedications throughout the night to honor the history of the chapter and the members who came before them.

“It was a humbling honor to assist in orchestrating the 50th Anniversary Brandywine DU Fall Sportsman’s Banquet,” said Area Chair Adam DiSabatino. “We were all hands on deck, utilizing the committee’s full array of abilities to make the 50th best in class.”

#8: Nevada–Reno Chapter

Event: Reno Annual Dinner

Area Chair: Jay Kenny

Senior Regional Director: Billie Ray Fann

Director of Development: Jessop Boden

Chapter Success: $188,433

Chaired by local business owner Jay Kenny, the Reno chapter continued the previous year’s success by recognizing the desires of its patrons. Through an offering of high-quality firearms, hunts, trips, vacation packages, and an exciting lineup of gear and gadgets, the chapter was able to maximize all revenue-generating channels.

Senior Regional Director Billie Ray Fann shared his thoughts on the event: “Jay Kenny and his Biggest Little Committee have worked tirelessly to remain in the Top 10 with the support of local conservation-minded donors and the Eldorado/Silver Legacy Casino staff, who have a deep understanding of what Ducks Unlimited does in the desert.”

#9: Texas–Ellis County Chapter

Event: Ellis County Dinner #2

Area Chair: John Reagan

Senior Regional Director: Russ Hawley

Director of Development: Bob Locke

Chapter Success: $181,950

In the spring of 2021, attendance at the Ellis County chapter event was below expectations because of lingering pandemic restrictions. The chapter leadership decided to try again and started planning for an August event. With its dedicated volunteers and outstanding community support, the chapter was able to accomplish a very successful event.

Senior Regional Director Russ Hawley commented, “The chapter’s drive and dedication to make their events the best are truly amazing. Their continued success is a combination of great leadership and outstanding community support.”

#10: Texas–Corsicana Chapter

Event: Corsicana Dinner

Area Chair: Ross Reamy

Senior Regional Director: Russ Hawley

Director of Development: Bob Locke

Chapter Success: $176,974

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting the Corsicana DU committee, you will soon notice the true camaraderie they share. They are one of the greatest examples of how a committee works together to pull off a very large, successful event year after year.

“We are fortunate to live in what has to be one of the most generous communities of our size in the nation,” said Area Chair Ross Reamy. “Year in and year out, our little community’s generosity never ceases to amaze me. With all that 2020–21 threw at us, we still felt obligated to proceed with our event, and the attendees reinforced this desire to carry on. We are excited and already planning for another sellout, standing-room-only, high-octane event this January.”