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Holinger: Get the biggest buck for your bang

Your doorbell rings. Some kid in a para-military uniform (a blue-jeaned adult looming behind him) stands on your porch. Opening the door triggers a prepared speech gauged to elicit guilt and pity. A wrinkled document unfolds in your face with 100 varieties of popcorn, cookies or candy. Next to the colored chart, you recognize neighbors’ hurried signatures.

“Would you like to help our organization?” the youth inquires as though reading a cue card.

“Great, yeah,” you lie.

You check your wallet for petty cash. Zero. Too bad. You should buy something from this young, overachieving entrepreneur; he might someday own the company for which you now work and be tempted to fire you, Willy Loman style. You offer to write a check. When you learn no money is needed now, you select more boxes of whatever he’s pushing than anyone can eat in a lifetime because you want to impress the world with your community involvement and overwhelming generosity.

Four months later, the master list lost, they return to ask what you ordered. “Was it two boxes of Chocolate Chip Macadamia Peanut Butter Clusters and one box of Coconut Macaroon Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Munchies, or one box of Lemon Encrusted Raspberry-filled Tortilla Nuggets and two boxes of Marshmallow Mint Butterscotch Melt-away Smoothies?”

“Give me your stale, your already-opened,” you answer patriotically. “Give me your huddled crushed boxes yearning to be sold, the wretched refuse of your teeming Radio Flyer.”

Oh, who am I kidding? As father of two Scouts and athletes who played every sport except traveling mahjong, we often begged door to door on afternoons other than Halloween.

If only I knew then what I know now! What idiots all we Fox Valley parents have been! Instead of pushing fats, sugars and carbs, we should have gone metal.

That’s what Charidy Butcher did. Besides having a name I’ll use in my next novel, she had her phone “ringing nonstop” even from people outside Illinois since beginning a raffle benefitting the downstate Atwood-Hammond Little League team. (You can read the story at What did she offer? An Xbox? iPad? Smartphone?

Who wants stuff they already have? No, Charidy promised the winning ticket a Rock River Arms Tactical Operator AR-15. For you non-militia types, that’s a military-style assault rifle similar to the one used to kill over 20 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.

If Midwestern Babe Ruths can generate income by banking on America’s lust for heavy weaponry, Tri-City churches should capitalize on the nation’s apocalyptic paranoia by selling chances for home anti-invasion systems. Scouts should feed off people’s addiction to trans fats by raffling off gift certificates to Warm-n-Scrumptious Donuts. Schools should cash in on students’ preference for large screens over boring books by holding a lottery for a Home Media Entertainment Hub.

After all, an Atwood-Hammond second baseman couldn’t care less who winds up with a shiny, black assault rifle nestled in his gun cabinet, trigger finger itching for a target.

• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley since 1979. Contact him at

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