At first glance, pigeons have no apparent relationship to providing food for students — yet those small winged creatures will play a giant role in doing just that later this month in Mount Airy.
This concept will get off the ground on Sept. 16, when the second-annual Flight for Kids pigeon race is scheduled, sponsored by the Surry Sunrise Rotary Club. All proceeds will benefit the food backpack programs of Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools, to combat the problem of hunger that local children experience daily.
In its first year in 2016, the race raised more than $7,000. The format involves people buying tickets to be randomly matched with racing pigeons that can deliver cash prizes of up to $2,000 to purchasers by being among the fastest arriving here from Charlotte.
That sum generated last year was “more than matched” by Food Lion and a Rotary District 7690 grant to aid the “feeding students” programs of local schools, according to Carrie Venable, a Surry Sunrise Rotary Club member.
The club divided the money raised between county and city schools to support their efforts in feeding children over weekends and holidays during the school year, added Venable, who is public information officer and special projects coordinator for the city system.
“Buying a ticket is a wonderful way to support the local school systems’ backpack programs because the money is multiplied through the Rotary partners,” she mentioned.
Two hundred tickets were made available for this year’s race.
At last report, a limited number remained, which were in the hands of Surry Sunrise Rotary members. Venable is advising would-be ticket purchasers to consult an online listing of members at http://surrysunriserotary.org/?p=showclubmember.
Or they can visit http://surrysunriserotary.org and click Club Links, then Membership Directory. Checks should be made payable to Surry Sunrise Rotary.
Ticket buyers will be matched randomly with the racing pigeons through a drawing for bird assignments on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. at Old North State Winery. They do not have to be present for the bird drawing or the race to win.
The pigeon race fundraiser is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 16 in the parking lot at 351 Riverside Drive (across from Riverside Park) at what is known as the Pike Building. The rain date for the event is Sept. 17, or the next clear day.
Its $100 “donation” cost not only allows one to have a pigeon in the race but attend a family breakfast at 8:30 a.m. on Race Day during which winners will be announced as birds fly in shortly afterward.
In addition to the first-place payout of $2,000, the overall prize list includes $1,000 for second place, $500 for third place, $250 for fourth place and $100 for fifth.
Even for folks without tickets, the upcoming pigeon race can be considered a unique and interesting spectator event that offers a morning of fun.
The racing pigeons will begin their trip from the Charlotte Motor Speedway to fly back to home bases in Mount Airy, a distance of about 100 miles. The birds will arrive at one of three separate lofts participating, and attendees will be able to go to any of the lofts to watch those arrivals.
They are urged to bring lawn chairs to enjoy the festivities.
Many people are awed by the fact pigeons can find their way back home from such long distances.
The race also will have another purpose.
“This year, we are kind of using it as an opportunity for people to learn about Rotary and come out and hang out,” Venable said.
Among the benefits of membership cited by club officials are providing an outlet for friendship and fellowship, opportunities for business development and networking and aiding one’s continuing growth and education in human relations and personal development.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.