More than 300 people descended upon Chelsea’s Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill on Saturday for a wild game benefit dinner, part of an ongoing effort to provide much-needed financial support to one of the area’s mostcherished residents.
When word got out earlier this year that Veshire resident and lifelong outdoorsman Sam Magoon had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer, community members along the First Branch corridor banded together almost immediately to raise funds to help the Magoon family cover the steep medical expenses often associated with cancer treatment.
For Chelsea business owner Tim Ward, the idea of chipping in a few spare dollars fell far short of his notions of helping a friend in need. Rather than simply donating money, Ward stepped into the role of community organizer with the self-assigned goal of raising tens of thousands of dollars for the Magoon family.
Bruce Weatherell Jr. and Tim Ward soak in the Saturday sunshine as a gigantic meat smoker finishes off the final few dishes for the Sam Magoon Benefit Dinner in Chelsea. (Herald / Dylan Kelley)
Ward took his first foray into fundraising activity more than a decade ago with a border-to-border snowmobile ride to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, at the behest of his late daughter Erica, who succumbed to the lung disease in 2017. Since then, Ward, who co-owns the Wagon Wheel with his wife, Kelly, has taken a matter-of-fact approach tosupporting members of his community. “A lot of people in bad situations [who] need help get overlooked,” said Ward via telephone on Monday, as he detailed the three-pronged approach to fundraising that unfolded over the weekend, culminating in the wild game supper at the Wagon Wheel that served up heaping dishes of wild turkey, venison, pork, and homemade macaroni and cheese.
In addition to ticket sales to the banquet, Ward also facilitated the raffling of a custom-engraved Remington 20-gauge shotgun, which featured intricate engraving donated by Vershire-based Adams & Adams Custom Engraving. Ultimately, raffle ticket sales for the firearm netted an additional $10,000 for the Magoon family by the time the winning ticket was drawn later in the evening.
By the end of Saturday night, the benefit dinner—which witnessed dozens of diners and volunteers sporting commemorative t-shirts of the event—had raised more than $24,000 for the Magoon family, Ward said.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said. “It’s good to see that so many people in such a rural community— when one of their neighbors, friends, relatives is in need of some help—that they put everything aside and their true colors shine.”
Ward also reminded community members that the GoFundMe campaign for the Magoon family—accessible through the Wagon Wheel’s social media accounts—remains active. So far, the campaign has raised more than $7,000 toward its $10,000 goal.
One longtime friend of Magoon is Jim Cloud of East Thetford, who described news of the avid hunter and Boston Red Sox fan’s diagnosis as “devastating.”
“I’ve known Sam for about 55 years. He’s such a humble guy and he does nothing but good for everybody,” said Cloud as he collected tickets from supportive community members, many of whom were on a first-name basis with Magoon. “Everybody knows him. He doesn’t have an enemy anywhere that I know of. He’s just a great guy.”
-- DYLAN KELLEY