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Hockey hunt takes on a new cause

Seeking to rile up some pheasants, hunters walk through corn Wednesday during the Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation's Ninth Annual Hockey Hunt event near Letcher. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)1 / 3
Tom Jones, of Letcher, guides a group of hunters through a field Wednesday as part of the Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation's Ninth Annual Hockey Hunt event near Letcher. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)2 / 3
Dean Strand, of Mitchell, delivers a safety message to hunters Wednesday as part of the Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation's Ninth Annual Hockey Hunt event at A&D Zoss Pheasant Hunting farm north of Letcher. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)3 / 3

With the support of veterans, a traditional Mitchell hunting fundraiser is helping a new cause this year.

The Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation Hockey Hunt has become one of the area's most notable hunting fundraisers, gathering funds for high school scholarships and getting more young people to play hockey in South Dakota. And the hunt, an annual event, will continue to do that.

But Dave Tronnes, the chairman of the foundation, said the group this year decided to expand its support to other entities within the city of Mitchell. The foundation connected with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2750, which is in the process of raising funds for an elevator in its building as part of ongoing renovations.

Dr. Martin Christensen, the commander of the VFW Post, said the two-day Hockey Hunt event provided for a good opportunity for his organization to get more involved.

"The main thing is that we want to get the VFW out and doing more service work in the community," Christensen said. "We're trying to the elevator project finished and once we have that finished, we can do more service things downtown. This event is for the youth and for scholarships and it's just good for the community. It's something we want to be involved with."

Christensen said members from the VFW helped line up locations to hunt, something he said was nearly a 12-month process.

Previously, the Hockey Hunt has included dozens of former NHL and Olympic players, including Stanley Cup winning goaltender Tim Thomas and 1980 U.S. Olympic legends Neal Broten and Dave Christian. But Tronnes said that the event has transitioned more to a corporate event, geared toward raising money for South Dakota causes as a "smaller but still profitable event."

On Wednesday, a few groups of hunters included about a dozen personnel from Toshiba and U.S. Bank each, along with a handful of veterans, ranging from World War II service members to the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Dozens of hunters split up into various groups, hunting near Fulton and White Lake. On Wednesday, at the A&D Zoss Pheasant Hunting farm near Letcher, hunters from Maine, California and Texas joined a handful of local hunters in the hunt.

Robin Spencer, of Booth Bay, Maine, said he's been coming to the event for each of the last three years. His son, Ben, was also part of his hunting party Wednesday.

"This is kind of the one vacation that I always look forward to during the year," he said. "It's just a great time."

Larry White, is the chief revenue officer for Toshiba American Business Solutions, based in Irvine, California. White and Tronnes are connected through their positions at Toshiba, which has a toner products division location in Mitchell.

"It's really important for us, because we're raising money locally here in the community, which is something that Toshiba really tries to make a priority," White said. "Dave has really taken the lead on this and we get a chance to bring some customers out here that are important to us and they just love this stuff. They have a great time and we have chance to bond with them outside the office environment, where you're not sitting across a desk from them."

The Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation was founded in 2006, following the death of Sam in a construction accident in 2005. While in high school, Sam Tronnes was an avid hockey player in the Huron Hockey Association in the early 1990s, which is the genesis for supporting hockey in his memory. Since 2010, the Tronnes family has run the scholarship program and the hockey hunt.

Since the group was founded, The foundation has given out $225,000 in scholarships and grants since its inception. In 2018, the foundation gave out its largest amount of scholarships ever, more than $20,000 to 21 players from South Dakota.

The funds raised for this year's hunt will go toward scholarships, the VFW project, and also making hockey available to South Dakota children ages 8 and under.

Christensen said he appreciated the chance to get in the field as part of the hunt.

"There should be plenty of birds and we're going to come back with smiles," he said. "For everyone involved, they can really enjoy what is outdoor South Dakota."