“I think Gillette should have a heart around it,” Jeannine Frye said, as she looked at the t-shirts for this year’s Wyoming Cares Bartender Challenge. The map represents each community that raised funds as part of this year’s challenge.
The Bartender Challenge is just one event organized statewide to help support Wyoming Cares, a 501(c)(3) charity founded in 2001. The organization utilizes volunteer-generated funds to help Wyoming residents with medical and non-medical needs.
The Cash Bash is a unique event that is independent of Wyoming Cares, but still is one of the largest fundraising events for the organization in terms of funds raised by a single event.
“We love coming here,” said Wyoming Cares Assistant Director Josh Geiger, who is one of only two employees based in Casper. The charity is governed by a volunteer board of directors, which Jeannine has served on for the last two years.
This last weekend was the 26th Annual Cash Bash. It began with Jeannine and her friend Tonia Spruhan brainstorming creative ways to raise money for the Ugly Bartender Challenge, as it was called all those years ago.
Jeannine recalls that first year the pair pushed each other around Gillette in a wheel chair trying to gather donations for a grand total of $68.
“I’d pay $68-bucks just not to have to do it,” Frye said with a laugh. Keep in mind, the challenge is held in January and February.
That’s how the Cash Bash came to be a night of BBQ dinner, good friends, and a reverse raffle with a $10,000 prize.
All these years later, the two friends still host the event together. It’s Tonia’s job to pull the tickets from the large tumbler, while Jeannine announces the names and hangs them on the board.
“It’s just a fun night raising money and getting friends together,” said Jeannine.
After more than a quarter of a century, some of those friends have moved away, but they still buy their tickets from Colorado, Texas, or wherever to do their part to give back to their home community and have a chance at the grand prize.
The amount of cheering is about the same for the periodic smaller cash prize winners as the jeers are for those holding losing tickets.
Only 300 tickets are sold and, with that, Wyoming Cares receives $9,500 right off the bat. Add in proceeds from the 50/50 cash drawing, and the donated quilt that is raffled off each year, and the Cash Bash gives closer $11,000 to Wyoming Cares each year.
Gieger said it’s amazing to see what a group of volunteers can do when they come together. It’s an outpouring of community support that seems to be unique to Gillette.
Jeannine fills in lulls in announcing by thanking the army of volunteers that help with all aspects of the fundraiser. She said that sitting on the board for Wyoming Cares has given her a different perspective into the number of Wyoming residents the organization helps each year.
When asked about turning over the reins of the Cash Bash after 26 years, Jeannine said she can’t image it. After all these years, she said it’s just as satisfying and rewarding.