(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A bingo fundraiser to bring veterinary clinics to Inuvik ended in threats against volunteers, and organizers say they won't put on similar events in the future.
Contestants saw the N36 ball in the chute and some dabbed their cards but the number was never called or placed on the bingo board during Saturday's bingo, which carried a jackpot of $25,000.
Volunteer organizer Ray Solotki arrived at the New North Networks building after the bingo caller mistakenly told contestants they could get refunds.
"When I got there, there was a lineup out and around the corner," said Solotki. "People were screaming they wanted a refund."
The Community Garden Society held the licence to that week's bingo, with the funds going to Arctic Paws, an organization that brings vet clinics to town.
Bingos fundraise for charities
Bingos are the society's primary fundraiser. It costs $21,000 per clinic, where they sterilize between 35 and 45 animals, wrote Arctic Paws chair Angela McInnes in Facebook post.
The group hadn't held one in almost a year and struggled to have enough funds for their April clinic, so the Greenhouse Society gave them its scheduled bingo.
A volunteer refunded some of the contestants after feeling pressure to do so, and the organization took a $500 hit. Community members have since donated to make up the loss.
That night, Solotki said, many people flooded New North Networks trying to get their money back, even if they didn't have the number in question on their bingo card.
"It's an honest mistake… a majority of the people that were in the line up agreed and said 'you're right, we are being greedy' and they left," said Solotki.
"A few people stayed and were screaming and threatening us."
It's embarrassing how the community reacted. - Ray Solotki, volunteer
The threats against volunteers continued after contestants left.
Solotki said other people received text messages threatening individuals' safety over the bingo incident, including the Town of Inuvik's lottery officer.
"Why would you threaten the person that works at the town reception that just prints out the lottery licences?" asked Solotki. "People went above and beyond harassing people from Arctic Paws. Also, we are all volunteers."
"Every time someone is screaming at you, demanding a refund… when that same person or people call you in the middle of the night saying 'I need help with my animal,' well now you are losing out on that," said Solotki.
Grant Hood, senior administrative officer for the town, said they received complaints over the bingo and will be looking into the matter.
However, the events that occurred over the weekend will have lasting impacts for Arctic Paws. The organization said without bingo, they will look for other ways to generate funds in the future.
"It's embarrassing how the community reacted and it also makes me not want to fundraise for these kinds of events anymore," said Solotki.
"Why would you volunteer your time to potentially being abused by your community members just for trying to raise money to do some good in the community?"