One of the benefits of being part of a flying club is the camaraderie that is developed among members, often through events. The Connecticut Flight Club based at Hartford-Brainard Airport (KHFD) has five airplanes and more than 50 members. It is in the midst of a large growth spurt, in part because it has successfully developed events and activities that are focused on engaging members internally and promoting the club externally.
This fall the club is planning a Poker Run that will provide an opportunity for club members to fly to different airports and compete against one another, while raising money for two scholarships, and promoting the club to a broader aviation community.
A Poker Run is an event in which participants pay a small entrance fee, and then fly to either five or seven airports where they get a playing card. The event is held during a specified time frame and has an airport selected as the terminus where pilots turn in their hands and win prizes.
The Connecticut Flight Club began planning the Poker Run by getting a small group of volunteers to take ownership of the event. “I’m trying to draw different people to get them involved in different activities so it’s not all the same group of people doing everything,” Club Vice President Tom Spitler said. “It’s totally a different group of people running the Poker Run activity than participated in setting up the [other club activities, such as the] wash and wax or the fly-in to Meriden or Simsbury.”
Five club members volunteered right away and began meeting about six months before the event date to come up with the logistics on how the poker run works. They began by discussing what airports participants will fly to and what organizations would be the beneficiary of the event.
The goal is to donate half the money raised to two scholarships – one would be for EAA Young Eagles and the second to a student attending a mechanics school sponsored by the state of Connecticut located at Hartford-Brainard Airport. “We’re going to split whatever we get between those two entities,” Tom said. “If we could get a $1,000 scholarship for each entity that would be a good first time event doing this.”
The club is working with the beneficiaries to determine how to select the scholarship winner. For instance, the school suggested awarding the scholarship to a second year student nearing graduation who needs funds to finish, or perhaps needs financial help to pay for the licensing exam.
Tom is using his knowledge of golf tournaments as a guide for planning this event. “I’m a controller, a financial person, so I always do it on the money,” Tom said. We’re saying we’re going to sell 300 hands of the poker run at $10 a piece. So that’s $3,000.”
In addition they’ll have different sponsorship levels. The goal is to get two anchor sponsorships, like Pratt & Whitney, which is located in Hartford, and possibly a local bank or Stop ‘n Shop, which has markets through the whole area. “And then you have lower levels. For a Poker Run you need decks of cards. We have the Mohegan Sun Casino that’s going to donate all those,” Tom said.
The day of the event, the club plans to have a luncheon with raffle prizes, which they hope could be donated by David Clark or Sporty’s. By getting donations of items that can used as prizes, such as gift certificates, allows more money to be divided between the two scholarships.
The small planning group also discussed event day staffing needs and how to market the Poker Run to the general public. The next step is to present what they’ve come up with to the entire club at the next monthly meeting.
Tom’s idea is to give the general membership a month to come up with sponsors. The club’s members come from various professions and are involved in different activities and know lots of people. “It’s time for each one of us to go on out and find a couple of sponsors,” Tom said. “If we get that feeling that we can’t get sponsorship, then we’ll have to rethink the event.”
As the event gets closer to taking place, the leadership group will assign volunteers to take on specific roles and be involved in various phases. Tom explained sometimes it’s easier to assign people tasks because often times members want to help but don’t know what’s needed. “At that point we’re going to get people involved, which we’ve done already with the membership involved with the sponsorship of this event, and then basically ask people to do specific tasks,” he said. It’s important to give people the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the event.
The Poker Run will serve the club in several ways – it is a form of external advertising to promote the club to pilots in the area who might become members, as well as raising the club’s profile as a good member of the local community. And it’s also a way to build camaraderie internally by having club members work together toward a common goal, while having some fun, raising funds for the club and for those who will benefit from the scholarships.