SAUK RAPIDS – A local nonprofit’s yearly fundraising event, aimed at providing lakeside retreats for area veterans, has been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Independent Lifestyles, headquartered in Sauk Rapids, hosts the Guns and Goods raffle each year.

“We sell 2000 tickets and raffle off 100 guns,” explained Shawn Reagan, Marketing and Development Manager. “Anyone who wins can either claim (a gun) or take the value of it in SCHEELS credit, which is what the majority of people do.”

The funds from ticket sales underwrite retreats for veterans at Camp Bliss, a resort in Walker. Camp Bliss was founded by Independent Lifestyles as a place for veterans to reconnect with their families, heal from service-related trauma, cope with service-related disability, and ease back to civilian life.

“We started a veterans outreach program years ago,” Reagan explained. “It had become apparent to our executive director that there weren’t many high-quality retreat centers for veterans. Many that we had seen – while (the veterans) are there, they’re helping make repairs or doing maintenance. Camp Bliss is more of a luxury retreat center to show them that this is the experience they deserve.”

Reagan says, while Camp Bliss is primarily focused on providing getaways for veterans and their families throughout the year, it also hosts events for individuals with disabilities.

The Guns and Goods raffle is critical to the future of these Camp Bliss retreats; the event typically raises around $45,000 each year. Reagan says Independent Lifestyles staff members sell the majority of the raffle tickets to family or friends, or at local events and conventions.

“We are probably a little under half of where we would want to be at this point in the year,” he said. “And it’s not like there are events coming up so that we can turn this around. It’s been very, very hard to get the word out.”

As per Minnesota law, raffle tickets cannot be sold via the mail or online. Tickets are $40.00. Reagan says anyone interested in buying a ticket, or volunteering to help sell them, can call Independent Lifestyles at 320-529-9000.

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