Barney Jette stood on his deck smiling as a crew of nearly 30 kids and parents bagged up the last few piles of leaves in his Rattlesnake yard for the Missoula Fencing Association’s Sixth Annual Stab a Leaf Rake-a-thon.
Jette said he hasn’t raked for the past two or three years, all thanks to the Rake-a-thon, which serves as both a service to community members who can’t rake their own leaves, and a fundraiser for the Missoula Fencing Association.
Laura Lee, the director and founder of the Missoula Fencing Association, said the Rake-a-thon works just like a walk-a-thon, where participants collect tax-deductible donations from community members and businesses for a good cause. In this case, Lee said, the money is going to scholarships and equipment for the Missoula Fencing Association, but there is no walking involved.
“We decided we wanted to do more than just walk,” Lee said.
Instead, Lee said members of the Fencing Association and their parents rake leaves for elderly and disabled people living in Missoula, free of charge. Although the homeowners don’t have to donate, Lee said they almost always do.
This year, nearly 60 people spent their Saturday raking leaves from 30 lawns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There were six crews and two trucks that hauled more than 600 bags of leaves to Eko Compost throughout the day. Each lawn takes at least a half-hour for one crew to rake, Lee said, depending on the yard’s size.
“It’s such a great community event because it raises money while teaching the kids about the value of community service,” parent Stacey McClure said. “Part of the money is going to scholarships, which is important because fencing is really expensive.”
McClure said she has two sons, ages 14 and 15, involved with the Missoula Fencing Association. With club fees, tournament fees and the costs of equipment, scholarships are key to making the sport affordable.
“We were really lucky to win a scholarship last year,” McClure said, adding that a family discount is also available to families with more than one fencer. “Both my kids have learned so much from fencing.”
People watched enviously as McClure strapped two yellow, rake-shaped paddles onto her hands and used them to scoop piled leaves into a huge garbage bag. “Ace Hardware,” she said with a laugh.
Others grappled with piles of leaves held close to their chests, while some flipped their rakes around to be used as shovels. One 12-year-old girl laughed when she slipped and fell into a damp pile of leaves as she was trying to force them into a bag with her hands. “This isn’t play time, Stella,” her dad, Fred Michini, joked.
It was for another young fencing enthusiast, who lay on the ground saying, "I'm a leaf, but a nice leaf. Don't rake me."
Christy Patton said her daughter became interested in fencing after they watched a movie that incorporated a cool sword-fighting scene. Patton said her daughter, Arial, was amazed.
“So I looked up fencing and found the Missoula Fencing Association,” Patton said. “She’s been fencing for a while but this is our first year at the Rake-a-thon. It’s such a wonderful thing for the community.”
Patton, who was in charge of checking in with homeowners once the raking was finished, cleared the crew out of Barney Jette’s yard and looked around for any stray rakes or bags. “Everything look OK?” She asked Jette. He nodded with great, big smile and a thank-you.
“I’m really glad my daughter is a part of this,” Patton said.