LEWISTON — A scene of organized chaos unfolded at Lewis-Clark State College on Tuesday when supporters of education converged to win money for their schools through a test of speed, stamina and lots of scratching.
The Idaho Lottery’s 19th annual Scratch for Schools event pitted three-member teams from 37 north central Idaho schools against one another as the groups attempted to feverishly clear off hundreds of scratch tickets within five-minute time frames.
Prior to the start of the event, David Workman, with the Idaho Lottery, urged caution to those participating.
“We know scratching can be a vigorous sport,” Workman said. “Please scratch carefully.”
The event, dubbed the “fastest five-minute fundraiser in Idaho,” gave educators, administrators and staff members an opportunity to raise money for classroom or school needs, like playground equipment, books or technology.
The teams used a variety of methods. Some focused on clearing individual tickets, while others systematically employed long strokes to clear off multiple tickets at a time.
Each team varied in their effectiveness as they attempted to clear an entire stack of 300 tickets of the scratch game “Brain Teaser.”
As the fastest-scratching teams advanced to the next rounds, they were once again allotted the same amount of tickets, so they could rack up even more dollars for their schools.
The third and final round was whittled down to the three quickest schools: Prairie High School of Cottonwood, Potlatch Elementary School and Timberline Elementary School.
Educators from Potlatch hoped to keep their momentum going after they led the second round with a total of 209 tickets, but after their final bout, team member Hanna Ridgeway had her doubts.
“It sounded like another group was really excited, so I don’t know,” Ridgeway said of her team’s performance.
Once the totals from the final round were tallied, Prairie High School had set a state record and took the title as the fastest-scratching team after it cleared 280 of the 300 tickets in the final five-minute round.
The team, made up of Prairie High Principal Jon Rehder, physical education and health teacher Eric Coffelt and special education teacher Tori DeCaria, earned $501.
It was Rehder’s ninth year participating in the Scratch for Schools event. He previously competed for schools in Meridian and Caldwell.
He has a strategy, but Rehder wasn’t willing to share it.
“I can’t disclose that because then I won’t have an opportunity to win every year,” Rehder said with a laugh. “It’s all about the mental toughness. That’s all I got to say.”
Coffelt, a first-time scratcher, said Rehder gave him tips prior to the kickoff of the event, but it took a round to sink in.
“I really didn’t know what (his advice) was, but in the second round I got it,” Coffelt said.
Potlatch Elementary School walked away with $483 and the title of the second-fastest school after the team consisting of Ridgeway, Landon Gossack and Seth Christianson cleared 212 tickets in the final round.
For Rehder, who has a competitive spirit, the event is fun, but it serves a far greater purpose.
“Every penny for the school is important,” Rehder said.
In all, more than $7,650 was awarded at the event. Throughout the event’s history, $1.2 million has been funneled to schools in Idaho.
Unscratched tickets were also put to use. They were scratched off after the event, with all the winnings going toward the respective school.
Justyna Tomtas may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.