The Statesboro High School Ducks Unlimited chapter provided local sportsmen with an assortment of hunting, fishing and outdoor merchandise Wednesday and supported wetland conservation in a big way.
The group, Georgia's only Ducks Unlimited high school chartered chapter, hosted its first Banquet and Dinner at the Kiwanis-Ogeechee Fairgrounds, where members auctioned and raffled off more than 40 outdoor products and accessories.
Proceeds of the event will benefit wetlands and duck conservation, according to Lee Bratton, an academic adviser for the chapter.
Eighty percent of all funds collected for Ducks Unlimited - the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation - supports wetland preservation, she said.
More than 150 people attended the event, which raised more than $15,000.
"I think it was a great success. I am very proud of the event and all the people who made it possible. We definitely exceeded our expectations," Bratton said. "I think it went very well. National is very excited about it. They said that the money raised is an outstanding amount for the first time hosting a banquet. They were very impressed."
In raffles, a silent auction conducted throughout the evening, and a live auction following a steak dinner, the SHS club sold dozens of items, ranging from coolers to rifles.
Items sold include fishing poles, knives, guns, outdoor paintings and duck calls.
Some products were purchased by the Ducks Unlimited group at discounted rates; others were donated by local businesses.
The collection of merchandise was valued at several thousands of dollars.
"We are excited for this being our first one," Bratton said. "We just hope to grow from here, and have this event get better and bigger."
Statesboro High School's Ducks Unlimited Chapter was formed earlier this year to open the door for environmental research and conservation opportunities for its student members.
Students are able to work hand-in-hand with local researchers to protect ecosystems and duck populations, including work on a plot of wetland acreage at Fort Stewart.
Work conducted by students includes "maintaining data on ducks (that) are coming in and out of boxes, monitoring eggs, ensuring that predators cannot reach ducks or their eggs, and field work to preserve the wetlands," Bratton said.
In a very short time, the group has grown to include more than 50 members.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.