A decade of giving – Sesser business giving back to community

By Jim Muir

Very quietly during the past decade the Double R Bar in Sesser has given back to the community in a big and lasting way.

This weekend – January 6, 2018 – will mark the 10th Anniversary of the Willard & Brandon Dame Hunt that will take place at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. Since its inception the annual event has raised more than $75,000 that has been donated to fund scholarships for Sesser-Valier High School students and to provide much-needed help to local people facing difficult medical conditions.

Charles Pool, manager of the bar, said the annual hunt has ‘grown by leaps and bounds’ in both money raised and participants. Pool said the amazing thing is that the event has not been highly publicized or promoted.

Double R Bar manager Charles Pool, left, presents a check to former Sesser-Valier High School student Luke Thompson from money raised through the annual Willard & Brandon Dame Hunt.
(Photo provided)

“This little bar has been a part of the community for a long, long time,” Pool said. “This event is just a way for us to give something back. The bar keeps none of the money raised.”

The day of the hunt will be a jam-packed marathon for the many volunteers who donate their time and resources and will include three meals – the Double R kicks the event off with a hearty breakfast prior to the hunt. All the hunters involved each pay $30 to participate. After the ‘before-daylight’ breakfast at Double R the hunt is held and then lunch is served again at the bar. Gutzler said vendors from throughout Southern Illinois donate items to be raffled off during the daylong event, including three new guns this year. Pool said each year the hunt draws 60-80 hunters. Other sponsors donate money and items that are auctioned during the daylong event.

Willard Dame and his son Brandon loved to hunt and loved the outdoors and the camaraderie with fellow hunters that go along with the sport. But tragedy struck the Dame family on December 28, 1994 when 16-year-old Brandon was critically injured in a two-car crash south of Sesser. He died the following day in a Cape Girardeau hospital. Willard died on January 26, 2007 at the relatively young age of 59.

And it’s that knowledge that spurred Double R co-owner Randy Gutzler to initiate the annual event to honor the memory of father and son while at the same time helping a local student through a scholarship fund.

Gutzler said the ‘why’ involved with the start of the yearly hunt is two-fold.

“Willard loved to hunt and Brandon started hunting with him when he was really young,” said Gutzler. “We think this is a good way to keep their memory alive and also help a deserving student continue their education.”

Pool said a portion of the money raised is donated each year to the Sesser-Valier High School Outdoorsman Club – a group that has received statewide recognition for its annual handicap deer hunt and other community-oriented programs. In recent years, Pool said, money has also been donated to local residents fighting mounting medical and travel expenses from cancer.

‘We’ve also donated more than $5,000 to St. Judes Children’s Hospital,” said Pool. “We have also helped three or four people right here in Sesser who were battling cancer.”

Chrissie (Dame) Vickers, Willard’s daughter and Brandon’s sister, gave high marks for the effort by Gutzler and Pool and the host of people that help to make the event a success. Despite his youth Vickers said her brother was an avid hunter and was also proud of his association with the popular Outdoorsman Club at S-V High School.

“I think it’s tremendous what they have accomplished with this event,” said Vickers. “As the years go by this is a way to keep my dad and my brother’s memory alive and at the same time help a young person with their education.”

She recalled that the November deer season of 1994 – only a few weeks before her brother was fatally injured – found Brandon torn about a tough decision.

“He loved the Outdoorsman Club and the handicapped deer hunt,” said Vickers. “He wanted to go to that but he really wanted to hunt with my dad. In the end he went with my dad to hunt and it was the last time they hunted together.”

Gutzler said there are certain criteria that must be met each year to qualify for the scholarship.

“The scholarship must go to a member of the Outdoorsman Club and also to a student that has a financial need,” said Gutzler. “And the scholarship has to go through Rend Lake College.”

Gutzler said he believes the event will continue to grow each year.

“We’re happy to do it each year,” said Gutzler. “To raise more than $75,000 in a little bar in a little town is a pretty good sum of money and of course it all goes for a great cause.”


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