Debbie Drolette of Shady Cove bought two raffle tickets for a hand-carved wooden carousel at an event at the Port of Brookings Harbor last spring and promptly forgot all about them.
“I walked over (to the booth) because the carousel is so gorgeous,” she said. “It looks like it took years to do. Well, they told me it was (a fundraiser) for veterans, and I definitely wanted to donate to vets.”
She doubled her chances that day — either Memorial or Labor Day — when her partner Tom Schauer, declined putting his name on one of the two $10 tickets.
The carousel was handcrafted by Vietnam veteran Art Larason of Harbor, who is better known for his work on intricate Viking ships that he raffles off over the year for veterans outreach programs.
The carousel, about 3 feet in diameter, features mythical Viking creatures, including Odin’s wolves and julbocks, a Scandinavian Christmas goat. A motor he procured from a drill — the hardest part of the project, Larason said — turns the carousel and pushes the animals on the outer ring of the carousel up and down.
While it takes Larason a few months to make a Viking ship, this piece of art took more than a year and features several types of wood, many of which he salvaged from mills: Pine, oak, walnut and African varietals.
Over the years, his unique boats have made $19,010 for the Vietnam Veterans of America. The carousel garnered $3,840 — about half what they’d hoped, said VVA President Bill Farrell. The group believes the discontinuation of port-sponsored events and the Chetco Bar Fire challenged ticket-sale efforts.
The outreach program, which helps veterans of all wars and conflicts, provides money for housing assistance, health care, transportation, temporary and HUD housing, cars, jobs and other things a veteran might need. Since August 2014, almost $75,500 has been spent to help 64 veterans, of which only 22 were in the Vietnam War, said chapter President Bill Farrell. Including families of those veterans, the program has helped 91 people.
“It’s helped a lot of people help themselves,” he said. “I love it; it’s a passion. It’s not like work to me.”
The chapter drew the winning raffle ticket on Veterans Day at the Elks Club and called Drolette — who, at first, didn’t remember entering a raffle.
“It had totally slipped my mind,” she said, adding that she thought the caller had misdialed. “And I don’t ever win anything, so I didn’t have to worry about it. Then I remembered seeing the carousel, and it dawned on me. I’m thrilled.”