Halfway houses, high school marching bands and Sigma Chi fraternity weren’t around when John Adams encouraged Americans to celebrate independence from England with “bonfires and illuminations,” but the founding father’s star-spangled suggestion will benefit these and other causes with fireworks sold in the East Valley for the Fourth of July.
Cashing in on Adams’ idea now that the 70-year-old ban on consumer fireworks is lifted in Arizona are charities, athletic groups, youth organizations and service clubs selling state-approved safe and sane fireworks from June 28 through America’s 235th birthday.
Among the area nonprofits looking to make some green out of red, white and blue is the booster club supporting Dobson High School’s marching band. Parents will be drumming up sales for the drummers and other musical Mustangs at a TNT tent next to the Safeway at 1225 W. Guadalupe Road in Mesa.
Profits earned there and a Chandler location near Fry’s grocery store at 981 W. Elliot Road will help send the band’s 225 members to a camp next month in Prescott, along with subsidizing competition fees and other expenses.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, so there’s no baseline as to how much we’re going to make,” said Tammy White, president of the Dobson Band Parent Association. “It would be totally awesome if we could make $20,000, but I have no idea.”
White got wind that a rival band on the west side had a fireworks fundraiser over New Year’s, and holding one of its own fit in her group’s plans to “work smarter” when it comes to making money.
“We’d need to wash a lot of cars to fund all the things a big marching band needs,” she said. “Hopefully the fireworks fundraiser will be a success and we won’t need 15 car washes and to sell cookie dough. We’ll still have various fundraisers, but hopefully we won’t need to drain the parents dry.”
Another nonprofit hoping to grab a big piece of the patriotic and pyrotechnic pie is Step One Halfway House, which takes in recovering alcoholics and drug addicts at various facilities in Phoenix and will operate two TNT stands in Mesa.
“These funds are critical,” said director Joe Garcia. “Besides other needs, we’re coming toward summer time when our electric bills can double, and the money we make from fireworks will help offset that expense.”
Every fountain and assortment sold by Step One means more money to feed and shelter clients who “have nowhere else to go,” according to Garcia, adding, “We’re the only halfway to my knowledge that takes in people with no money. Everyone usually wants a week’s rent in advance when these people hit the door.”
For Garcia, who was a client of Step One long before he became its director, finding a new way to raise funds is very rewarding.
“Step One saved my life,” said Garcia, a recovering crystal meth addict who now proudly claims four years of sobriety. “As the director, I was skeptical when I heard about fireworks as a fundraiser. It sounded too good to be true. So I contacted other groups that had sold over New Year’s and they made me a believer.”
Step One’s fireworks tents will be located in the Safeway parking lot at 1567 E. University Drive and next to Walmart at 5122 E. University Drive.
Elsewhere in Mesa, Sigma Chi fraternity of Northern Arizona University will raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The frat’s social chairman has past experience selling fireworks, having raised funds for a baseball organization in Scottsdale over New Year’s.
“It was easy to convince the guys that we should do this fundraiser because we could possibly make $5,000 in a week,” said Kian Bidanjiri, saying his frat needed to look outside Flagstaff to sell because of local laws.
Sigma Chi will run two TNT stands in Mesa — 240 W. Baseline Road next to Walmart, and at the Poca Fiesta Shopping Center, 1010 W. Southern Ave. — along with a Gilbert location at 125 W. Guadalupe Road.
In Tempe, Southwest Gymnastics’ boosters club will run a TNT fireworks tent adjacent to Walmart at 1080 W. Elliot Road, where profits will help sponsor gymnasts headed to regional and national competitions along with funding something that all at the facility can enjoy.
“Right now we’re looking at buying new mats,” said Jim Satterlee, a Tempe resident whose 10-year-old son, Mason, is the youngest member of the boys’ competitive team. “We’re hoping by the end of the year we can fund-raise enough money to get them. “Everyone benefits when we get new mats.”
As far as a specific fundraising goal, Satterlee, the group’s fireworks chairman, said there isn’t one other than to “make a ton of money.”
“Any money made will make it worth it,” he said. “There’s just something about gymnastics that makes me want to say ‘wow.’ In football you get four downs, in baseball it’s three strikes, in basketball and soccer it’s two halves. In gymnastics you get one chance. If a kid goes for it and makes it, the other kids cheer. If a kid messes up, there’s still high fives from the other teammates.”
Elsewhere in Tempe, an organization that assists military veterans expand or start small businesses will raise funds at a TNT tent in the Fry’s Food Store parking lot, 1835 E. Guadalupe Road. Proceeds will help locally based American Patriots, lending a hand to veterans in need of business structure, coaching, training, marketing and other areas that, according to the nonprofit, “ultimately helps create stronger local communities.” Tempe resident Tony Breschini is chairing the AmPat fireworks fundraiser.
Fireworks will be available from other nonprofits and many retailers throughout the Mesa area.