Four years ago Scott and Brian Miller of the family owned Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing, who went to school here and have children now in school here, thought they’d lend a hand to local youth sporting activities and organizations. Their idea was to raffle off a famous Kenai River Classic Willie Boat, a complete package including a Yamaha outboard and trailer. With members of local youth organizations ranging from the Soldotna Little League to SoHi cheerleaders a large crowd gathered last week under sunny, summer skies for the official drawing. With all 850 tickets being sold out in advance to folks from all over the country, it was a Soldotna man whose ticket was drawn from the barrel — Brad Hibbard. “Words can’t even describe what I felt when I got the message. First I want to thank the Miller family for putting on this event and giving me a chance to buy a ticket and help them help our youth activities. But I’m still pinching myself and living in the dream,” Hibbard told the Dispatch. “We came here in 1992 and raised our four kids here and in all that time I have always wanted a fishing boat, but never bought one because my standards were higher than my pocket book, but last night I picked it up and camped out in it; it is so sweet. I’m hugging everyone and I can’t stop smiling. I’ll be christening her the ‘Trustworthy Hardware’ this fall,” he said.
The collaboration of Soldotna Hardware & Fishing and Willie Boats have raised $75,000 over the last four years for youth activities, “We only sell 850 tickets and they have always sold out because Jim makes a great boat so the tickets sell themselves. He gives us a great price for the boat and gives us the opportunity to support a great cause, our youth,” said Scott Miller. This groups receiving checks from the raffle proceeds included, Soldotna High School receiving $10,000, “That’s spread across the board for football, basketball, soccer, swimming, track and hockey. Soldotna Little League got $6,000 and other groups like Soldotna Youth Orchestra, Cook Inlet Academy and other groups, the money gets spread around really well. Our employees look forward to this every year because they know it’s a good cause and have a little in house competition to see who sells the most tickets,” said Miller.