"It's not only our facility, it's our community's facility"
When the Ashby Legion began its fourth Chase the Ace fundraiser in May 2015, they didn't know what was about to hit them. The local legion branch held three previous Chase the Ace events, but they could never get past the 13th card. However, what they didn't know was this time, the popular game would go well beyond the 13th card. "This began downstairs as just a way of getting a few funds just to keep the legion going," said John MacInnis, president of the Ashby Legion, "Little did we know what Would happen - The rest is history." The fundraiser was in support of the Ashby Legion as well as Horizon Achievement Centre. The game began on May 15, 2015 and finished almost one full year later.
After 48 weeks of excitement, the Ace of Spades was finally picked by Kathy McPherson of Sydney on May 7, 2016, McPherson received $2.9-million.
In total, the fundraiser raised close to $8.3-million. The Ashby Legion received $1.6-million from the fundraiser. The Horizon Achievement Centre was given $775,000 with money going towards construction of a new facility. MacInnis said the fundraiser started with three or four guys running it for the first three months, but that changed once the game started to get bigger. "Towards the end of it, once the draw was done on Saturday night, we started getting tickets ready for the next weekend on Sunday," he said. "We wouldn't finish getting the tickets ready until Friday at midnight - It was a seven day job."
"The fact that we gave out over $5.2 million worth of prizes is a huge amount of money and we would certainly like to thank the people who care Week after Week," said MacInnis, despite all the success of the fundraiser, the game did spark some controversy when the March 12, 2016, draw produced two people with the same winning ticket. Citing a printing error, event organizers opted to pay both winners, giving up the Week's profits of about $230,000. MacInnis said the fundraiser was an eye-opener. "We did have some problems," he said. "We had the duplicate ticket issue, which we feel we did the right thing by paying both parties."
The Ashby Legion received its charter in 1950. The first building was built by the men and volunteers in the parking lot of the current building on State Street in Sydney. The new building was built in 1972. With the game finished, the Ashby Legion turned its attention to much needed renovations to its building. The majority of the renovations were completed in the legion's basement with new mechanical, electrical and sewer as well as all new furniture, flooring, and a beautiful new bar. Other renovations included the upstairs kitchen and the finishing of siding on the outside of the building. "It's been a while since we had any real face lift," said Tom Young, First Vice President of Ashby Legion. "We are a very active legion with over 300 members and thanks to the volunteers that did Chase the Ace, it was really a god-send to us." "The place was dated, the walls and ceilings were 40 years old, they needed a change, brighten things up because the lighting was poor, We had some problems with the Sewer, mold in the walls, different things like that, which are now all corrected," said Young. Aside from renovations, the Ashby Legion also used some of the money from Chase the Ace to make donations to the Fort McMurray fund for $25,000, following wildfires in the Alberta City in May 2016, and to the United Way Cape Breton for $20,000 for flood victims following the Thanksgiving Day storm in October.The legion also paid the 2017 membership for close to 280 people as a thank you for their support towards Chase the Ace. MacInnis said the legion wouldn't have been able to run the fundraiser without volunteers. "There is no way we could have reached the milestones that we did without the volunteers," he said. "I'm talking the venues, the people who sold tickets, the people who purchased tickets - if you can't sell tickets, you're not going anywhere." "We can't give enough credit to the Horizon Achievement Centre for their volunteers," said MacInnis, "Ninety per cent of the volunteers, as far as venues go, were manned by the Horizon Achievement Centre and their supporters and families."
The Ashby Legion currently has around 300 members and is always looking for new members, Young said anyone can become a member of the legion. "We are picking up new members as a result of Chase the Ace, people want to become involved, he said, "People felt the community spirit here was really good, so they have become members," Young said the legion is not ruling out the possibility of having another Chase the Ace in the future but as of now, nothing is confirmed. "Where ever we go that's the first question that John gets asked, when are you going to have Chase the Ace again?" he said, "There is a reason that they ask because they know what it was like, people still have fond memories of those Saturdays, not only because there was a lot of money involved, but the social aspect is something that you cannot put a figure on." MacInnis and Young encourage the local community to visit the Ashby Legion. "We're more open to opening it to the general public to say look we do have a facility here that you're more than willing to rent to put on a shower or maybe a wedding or anything of that nature based in our community at our location," said Young. "Our doors are open."
Chase the Ace - Facts & Figures
Kathy McPherson of Sydney Won S29-million by flipping the Ace of
Spades on May 7, 2016.
Ashby Legion received $1.6 million from Chase the Ace
48 Weeks - 11 Venues - over 200 Volunteers
Ashby Legion used money from the fundraiser to renovate the
legion's downstairs bar, new mechanical, new electrical, new sewer,
new bar, new furniture, new flooring, renovated upstairs kitchen, as
well as finish siding on the outside of the building.
Amount of money disbursed to winners
Number Of Tickets Sold
Winner Kathy McPherson
Money donated to Horizon Achievement Centre
Money donated to United Way for Flood Victims
Money donated to Fort Mac Fire Fund