Mattawa residents all fired up for charity bingo

·3 min read

Every year, Fern Levesque takes the reigns on putting together the Voyageur Days Bingo, and the popular event fires up the crowd without fail. Once again, the bingo calls will fill the Mike Rodden Arena, as the event takes place on Sunday, July 24 at noon. However, doors open at 9:00, to allow the serious players plenty of time to find their favourite spots.

The event is hosted by the Mattawa Volunteer Firefighters Association, and all profits from the bingo go towards the Mattawa Fire Department. Levesque is a long-serving volunteer with the department—August 12th marks his 30th year of service—and he’s been helping to organize the bingo for 24 years. The novelty has not worn off, and he still enjoys producing the event, which usually draws between 200 and 275 players.

“I do it every year to help raise funds for firefighter equipment for our fire department,” he said. Each year, the bingo brings in around eight or nine thousand dollars, and after expenses—which is mainly cash prizes for winner—the Association get to keep around three or four thousand. The money helps offset some of the larger costs the department might incur. For example, when the town purchased “$60,000 worth of bunker gear for the department,” the Association was able to chip in $10,000 they had saved from funds raised through bingo.

Giving back to the department that serves them is one reason the bingo is so popular with residents. Another reason is the $5,500 allotted for cash prizes. There are three $1,000 jackpots, two $500 pots, “you’ve got the bonanza $350, and then you’ve got 10 regular games and five advance games,” Levesque explained.

With prizes so hot, the event draws a lot of out-of-towners as well. Some come for Voyageur Days and slip over to the bingo game while in town. Others make the trek to Mattawa solely to partake in the bingo. It’s a draw unto itself— “people come from all over.”

See: Voyageur Days will rock all the harder with your hard work

“Our cards are all numbered, and whoever’s card we pull out, they win a hundred-dollar entry fee,” Levesque said. Each card costs $40 and can be purchased in advance at Mattawa’s Tourist Information Centre at 401 Pine Street or from Huard’s Freshmart at 1016 John Street. Cards are also available at the event.

And there are more prizes to be won at the annual bingo extravaganza. Levesque detailed how “each firefighter—and we are 20—has to go to different businesses in Mattawa, North Bay, and all over” to collect donations for the big day. The result is impressive, as this year the team collected $2,800 worth of donations. These donated prizes can be won by a 50/50 ticket, “and after we draw your number, you can come to the table and pick up a prize.”

The bingo “usually finishes around 3:30,” so plan your Sunday accordingly, and Levesque reminds people that to qualify for the door prize, you must buy your tickets in advance.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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