Fun was the name of the game at Soboba Tribal Preschool fundraiser

The second annual Soboba Tribal Preschool Bingo Night Fundraiser attracts 400 players to the Soboba Sports Complex, Thursday, March 21. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

The second annual Bingo Night Fundraiser to raise money for Soboba Tribal Preschool students to attend a year-end celebration at Legoland was an astounding success. The sold-out event attracted 400 game players to the Soboba Sports Complex Thursday, March 21, to play four games of bingo, each with cash prizes.

After a welcome and heartfelt gratitude from Tribal Executive Officer Steven Estrada, who acknowledged all team members who volunteered their time, the first number was called by sponsorship coordinator Andrew Vallejos, who was being assisted by Loovi Herrera on stage.

The first game ended in a tie and Paul Johnson and Dione Kitchen had to take part in a tiebreaker contest facilitated by Corryn Salgado-Flores. She said it is a trending Tik Tok challenge to see who can get a three-foot-long Fruit Roll-up into their mouth the fastest without using their hands.

Johnson, who emerged victorious, donated half of his $250 winnings back to the preschool while the crowd applauded his generosity.

The second game ended in a three-way tie and the tiebreaker this time had contestants placing an Oreo cookie onto their forehead and without using their hands, working it down into their mouth. After several attempts, and many replacement cookies being handed out, Janis Ayal from Pechanga was the winner.

Gordon Placencia was the only winner in game 3 and the final Blackout Bingo game resulted in two players participating in two tiebreakers since the cash prize was $500. It was Chanel Zelaya versus preschool student Ignacio “Iggy” Alcala. After Chanel won the Fruit Roll-up challenge, they were both given a chance at an ax throwing contest, using plastic axes. Although they both got one ax on the target, Chanel was given the overall win after combining both contests.

Adding to the anticipation of the night were 80 outstanding raffle prizes, most of them in cellophane-wrapped baskets. Those who purchased raffle tickets deposited them into the boxes in front of the gifts they most wanted. There was also a 50/50 drawing that gave one lucky ticket holder $1,089.50 to take home.

But the biggest win of the night was seeing the community support for the preschool. Vallejos reached out to all the departments and requested volunteers and was pleased with the positive response.

“All these people came together because they wanted to see these children go to their year-end event,” Vallejos said. “I am so proud of these people and the team. This is why I work for Soboba. Unlike any other Tribe, this Tribal government is like a community, and you can count on them.”

From those who work at the preschool to Tribal and non-Tribal community members, each and every one of those who volunteered their time stepped up in a big way.

“It was a huge collaborative effort with a huge goal, and we made it,” Vallejos said. “I would like to thank Andy Silvas and the Parks and Rec team, Human Resources, the Soboba Casino Resort marketing team, Noli students, Soboba Youth Council, parents and grandparents and actually the entire valley for their assistance and support.”

He was also thankful to Estrada and his assistant Karla Valdez, Christian Aceves from the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department, Soboba Casino Resort team members and Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas who said she was happy to volunteer her time to the event since she is a “Glamma” whose granddaughter attends the preschool.

“It was just so nice to see such a great turnout,” she said.

Vallejos also thanked the IT department as well as members of Soboba Tribal Council and Noli Indian School students who pitched in. Vice Chair Geneva Mojado enlisted the aid of her two children to help where needed while she assisted with selling 50/50 and raffle tickets.

“Holy Smokes. What a great event,” Mojado said. “It’s great seeing the entire community here and not only those from Soboba. It’s heartwarming to see this kind of support for our youngest Tribal members.”

Guests were treated to a delicious Italian dinner courtesy of Chef Anita Morillo and her team, which included Lead Cook Jacob Rivera. It rivaled any fine dining restaurant with three choices of pasta entrees. Added to that were fresh steamed vegetables, a salad and breadsticks. A corner was set aside for parents of preschoolers to host a sweet treats and bake sale, bringing in additional funds.

Carrie Garcia’s son Cygnus is a preschooler and her daughter, Clover, is in kindergarten this year. She was pleased with the turnout and is looking forward to going to Legoland with her children.

“I like to see this type of community support, and getting everything ready for this event it was nice to see the community’s involvement,” she said. “For me, having my children attend Soboba’s preschool is a generational thing. I went there when I was their age, and it means a lot to me to have them be students there.”

Vallejos said he was overwhelmed by the generosity of those that donated raffle prizes. From chamber of commerce members to Tribal administration office employees and the Silvas and Placencia families, the donations added to the excitement of the night as guests decided where to best deposit their tickets.

Hemet Mayor Joe S. Males, who attended with his wife, daughter, son and a dear friend, said his wife was happy to win one of the raffle prizes she wanted. He said they all love playing bingo and he couldn’t think of anything better than to spend time with his family and also support Soboba.

“We had a great time and were amused by all the great ideas for winning tiebreakers; we couldn’t stop laughing and we enjoyed all those who were helping and directing the evening,” Males said. “My overall impression of the event was that it was spectacular. The coordination of all the volunteers was right on and they were all volunteering with a smile. I believe that I had more fun at this Bingo Fundraiser than any other bingo game I’ve attended.”

Vallejos said the coordination of the event was handled like any event for Soboba where they ask people from different departments to participate and get approval from their managers, who sometimes get involved themselves.

“Soboba is known for its community involvement,” Vallejos said. “Here at Soboba, the team is involved in the community, and if you’re invested into this community, you’ll be a lifelong employee of the Tribe.”

Soboba Tribal Elder Rosemary Morillo was impressed with the diversity of support shown at the event.

“I love when our community and surrounding communities support our schools and I love that our preschoolers are benefitting from this event,” she said.

Hemet residents and friends for 25-plus years Rita Neisler and Dora Ramirez had been at a line-dancing event before heading to Soboba’s Bingo Night Fundraiser. They like playing bingo and were happy that their fun night out was also supporting a good cause.

“At the end of the night when the guests had left, all the volunteers who were cleaning up were tired but so happy. They were proud of themselves, and deservedly so,” Vallejos said.

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