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So Where Did Tricky Tray Come From?

Tricky Tray 2017
Rebecca Hutchinson
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It’s Tricky Tray time again. Some newcomers have asked, What the heck is Tricky Tray?


In order to understand Tricky Tray you first need to understand FOCUS. In 2006 long-time Deerfield resident and former school nurse Bernie Cameron wrote an article for the FORUM explaining all about Tricky Tray and FOCUS. With her permission, we reprint and update her article below.


The Deerfield George B White School adopted a 4-day week during the 1981 school year. A group of concerned citizens realized that this new calendar would have a major impact on family schedules and they joined together to address what we could do as a community to support this new initiative. Members felt their group should be something other than a regular PTO, which was exclusive to parents and teachers. They wanted a group that would be open to all Deerfield residents, regardless of whether or not they had children. Thus was born F.O.C.U.S., a 501(c) 3, which originally stood for Forum of Citizens Uniting the School. It was named by Hal Steven, the school guidance counselor at the time.


Pretty soon F.O.C.U.S. members realized that some serious fundraising would be needed in order to support the Friday activities and other projects that were being planned as a result of the new school schedule. Mary Ellen Carter, a founding F.O.C.U.S. member told the group about a fundraiser they had back in New Jersey where she lived.


Raffle items were solicited throughout the community, and on a designated night residents would take chances on the items, each one displayed on its own decorated “tray” and arranged by value.


F.O.C.U.S. began Deerfield’s Tricky Tray fundraiser in 1983. Over the years, many Tricky Tray traditions have been established. The original wooden barrel to turn and mix the tickets was built by Skip Widmer (and repaired by him in 2019). Many people have stepped up to emcee the drawing – Bill Carozza, Mal Cameron, Mary Mahoney, Joe Manzi, and now Tim Griffin. You can tell experienced “Tricky Trayers” – they are the ones who come armed with address labels for the tickets, rather than wasting time handwriting each ticket.


F.O.C.U.S. always intended to support both the school and the community. In 2017 the name was officially changed to the simpler FOCUS with a tagline of Focus on Community and School. Tricky Tray proceeds have supported over a hundred activities since 1983. In the community, FOCUS has funded Welcome Packets for new residents, the Women’s Club Books for new Deerfield babies, the Food Pantry, Got Lunch program, Senior Luncheon, the ALPost 103 sign, a new printer for the Historical Society, Catamount Aid race markers, tables at Veasey Park, a bench at the Great Brook Trail, the community skating rink and the town’s 250th celebration. Recent donations at the school include support of visiting artists and authors, Music and Math Night, the musical, sports equipment, stamps for teachers writing their students in this pandemic year and the outdoor classrooms.


In addition, each year FOCUS provides one or more scholarships to a graduating high school student who has shown a commitment to Deerfield through volunteer activities. FOCUS also awards the Sherburne Award to a community member who exemplifies the deep commitment to our town which Suzie Sherburne, a founding FOCUS member, so magnificently modeled for us all. Sherburne Award nominees come from the community at large.


So there you have it – the story of Tricky Tray and FOCUS – all of which contribute to Deerfield being a wonderful place to call home.