BGSU's outstanding community volunteer
Falcon Club member sets records selling 50/50 tickets
By Marie Dunn-Harris ’95
If you’ve ever been to a BGSU football, hockey or basketball game, chances are you’ve seen or met Wil Hesselbart. The 86-year-old has been selling 50/50 raffle tickets for the past 16 years, raising more than $130,000 for the Falcon Club.
In recognition of his dedication, Hesselbart has been named BGSU’s Outstanding Community Volunteer. He was honored during the National Philanthropy Day luncheon on Nov. 14 at The Pinnacle in Maumee, Ohio.
Hesselbart has been attending BGSU basketball games since 1947. Since then, 16 athletes who played for BGSU have gone on to play in the National Basketball Association. Hesselbart said he is proud to have watched and cheered for all of them. He’s not an alumnus, but he’s a big fan of the University’s athletic teams. That’s why he joined the Falcon Club in 1987, and he recalls meeting former basketball coaches Jim Larranaga and Dan Dakich.
“We had about a thousand people sign up for the Falcon Club and a friend asked me to start selling 50/50 tickets. I always liked to sell stuff, so I agreed,” he said.
Not only does Hesselbart like to sell, he’s also really good at it.
“I’ve set a few records,” he said modestly. His first was set after he and his partner decided to walk up into the stands at Anderson Arena to see if they could sell even more tickets. “That night, I had 69 twenty-dollar bills, and we ended up having $2,019,” he said. “We’ve hit $2,000 twice.”
Jane Myers, director of development and major gifts for Intercollegiate Athletics, said Hesselbart takes pride in what he does. “Will does not just stand and sell his tickets. He sets sales goals for the event and follows up the next day to see if he has met and exceeded his expectations. He competes against himself and is always working to reach his personal best,” she said.
Hesselbart has a strategy to get people to purchase tickets. “You have to yell to get people to buy,” he said. “Otherwise, they just walk by and ignore you. I watch people and they just keep walking and I say, ‘You can’t win without a ticket!’”
The 50/50 raffle tickets cost $1 each, so Hesselbart comes up with creative ways to sell as many as possible. “When I first started selling I used to yell, ‘Five for $5,’ and people would say, ‘That’s no bargain!’” he said. “So then we’d start selling them seven for $5, 15 for $10 or 32 for $20.” Recently, someone handed Hesselbart a $100 bill and he sold him 170 tickets.
People who regularly attend the home games recognize Hesselbart and are usually willing to give. “Wil has come to be a staple at our home games with his smile and his ‘Have I got a deal for you!’ attitude,” Myers said.
When asked how much longer he’ll continue selling, Hesselbart said he doesn’t want to quit. “How far is up?” he said. “Every year I think, should I quit? And last year I called then-athletic director Greg Christopher and said, ‘I’m 85 years old, do you think I should quit selling?’ And he said, ‘It’s up to you but I really like your enthusiasm!’”
Hesselbart said he’s not sure if he’ll be back for the football games next year. All the walking and standing for long hours at a time got to him at the last home game. But he plans to keep going as long as he can at the basketball games.
“I often wonder if people think I’m crazy, selling 50/50 tickets. A lot of people play golf, and that’s not helping anybody, that’s just something to do. I’m helping the University by selling 50/50 because I love BG,” he said.
Hesselbart recently developed sight problems and does not drive. But he has recruited some friends in his hometown to sell with him so that he can get here.
“Nothing keeps Wil from his job, and for that we truly appreciate what he has done for BGSU and the Falcon Club,” said Myers.