Four apprentices take initiative, throw fish fry to pave own way to International Sheet Metal Contest in Las Vegas

Fundraiser raises more than $11,000, brings sheet metal community together

DAYTON, Ohio – What began as a means to an end quickly turned into the perfect opportunity to strengthen brotherhood and create an annual tradition.

The International Training Institute’s annual sheet metal competition was just around the corner, and four men from Dayton, Ohio’s Sheet Metal Local #24 were prepared to compete when they were told that funds were low and the trip to Las Vegas wasn’t possible.

Instead of giving up the hopes to showcase their skills with more than 325 sheet metal apprentices from across the United States and Canada, Joe Greene, Brad Beecroft, Tim Wiley and Kevin Tipton, along with their coordinator at Local #24 Eugene Frazier, put their heads together. The result was a fundraiser that would not only send them to Las Vegas, but pay for their daily incidentals on the trip and cover their lost wages.

“When the JATC said we couldn’t afford to send the guys out to Las Vegas, I immediately started thinking of what we could do as a group to get them to the competition, and they were just as eager to find a means to an end,” Frazier said.

Frazier approached the JATC several times to discuss the possibility of the four apprentices going to the competition if they agreed to go without wages. Eventually, it was decided that if enough money could be raised to cover all of the costs, that the JATC would let them go and take the week-long leave from their classes and jobs.

ITI ended up paying for the cost of flights and the contest entrance fees, and that left an amount of $6,500 to cover the cost of lost wages and daily expenses, along with Frazier’s air fare and hotel.

A committee was formed in October to brainstorm what kind of fundraiser should be held, and almost immediately a fish fry was chosen. With a date and location selected, Feb. 20 at the Local #82 Electrician’s Union Hall (which was donated to the cause), each apprentice at Local #24 was charged with selling 5-10 tickets at $10 each to family, friends, neighbors and members of the community. People who were interested in attending could pay $12 at the door as well.

“The night before the event, we tallied up the tickets and definitely had more costs than tickets sold,” Frazier said. “I was afraid this wasn’t going to work out and we’d end up paying for the fundraiser instead of raising money. I was definitely wrong.”

The fundraiser raised more than $11,000 from tickets for entry, raffles and prize giveaways, as well as in-the-door costs like extra food and beverage, and donations. After paying for the fish fry, they netted more than $5,700 from the event, and were able to pay for the necessities for the five men to attend the contest in Las Vegas March 15-20.

“Everyone from the Local rallied together for a common goal and ended up really forming a brotherhood, something that was a little bit lost before,” Frazier said. “Many of the apprentices never see each other because of where they work or when they have class, and this gave them an after-work opportunity to get to know one another and form bonds that may not have been created if this fundraiser was never held. 

Despite not reaching the exact number of $6,500, the amount raised was considered to be a huge success. The number of people who attended the function from the community out-numbered the estimated number of attendees by 200. In fact, the response from the event on Feb. 20 was so positive and heart-warming that people have requested a fish fry take place next year too. Frazier has already selected the date and the committee will start working after the contest is over to put in place a plan for the fish fry fundraiser to become an annual money-raising event.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The International Training Institute (best known as ITI) is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). ITI offers apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Alexandria, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about the contest or ITI, visit or call 703-739-7200.