Thursday, November 08, 2007

Airsoft players have fun, help fund home

For $10 a head, fans of airsoft - a game like paintball but with more forgiving, less messy pellets - engaged in simulated warfare Saturday on the eight acres behind Healing Ground, a transitional housing facility in Wellford.
Some were cadets and college students from Clemson University, Wofford College and Lander University in Greenwood. Others were older and in the working world, or drove from North Carolina and Georgia to take advantage of the "CQB," or "close quarter battles," offered by the landscape and buildings perched upon it.
"It's a lot better than running through the hills," said Neil Hoggard, who led the group on Saturday and represented the S.C. Airsoft Association. "They love CQB."
Hoggard, an associate producer for a TV network in Fort Mill, was just one of dozens dressed in fatigues and wielding weapons that ranged from sniper rifles with scopes and tripods to pistols. The prices of the weapons range from about $100 up to $800, Kyle Chanko said.
"Last time we played here, a guy from Alabama drove up to play," Chanko said. "The property owners are really generous. ... This offers a facility to play indoors and around buildings. It's a lot more intense than just playing out in the woods."
Laurie Mugavero, who runs Healing Ground, said the airsoft crowd comes through about once a month.
The money raised helps pay the mortgage on the prop-
erty, which she purchased
in tandem with the house she has transformed into a transitional shelter for homeless individuals and veterans, and those with mental health needs.
"I want this to be a magnet. ..." she said. "It's so cool to see life, isn't it? I just love to see them play."
A couple of airsoft players showed up on Friday night, camping out overnight on the Healing Ground property.
By 10 a.m. on Saturday, a line of cars and trucks filed down the lawn next to the driveway. The games started and lasted throughout the day, with several short breaks so sweaty players could cool down and grab some food.
Alex Meinzer said a few friends turned him on to airsoft about eight years ago.
Interest has taken off in the past couple of years and the airsoft association's membership has grown, Chanko added.
"We're always looking for new players who want to come out and have fun," he said.

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