Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

You call the $50,000 shot August 19, 2011

IF YOU ARE BITTEN by a bat that flies away, you should expect to undergo a series of rabies shots.

If you win $50,000 while assuming the identity of someone else, you should expect fall-out from your actions.

Right about now you’re likely wondering why I’m writing about bats and bills all in the same post. Well, both made the news in my community of Faribault this week. One has garnered national attention, the other not.

First, the bat bite, not because it’s less important than the $50,000, but because it’s easier to write about and no gray area exists. You get bitten by a bat that can’t be caught, like a 9-year-old Nerstrand boy did in his family’s barn recently, and you get rabies shots. Simple. Black-and-white.

But, if you potentially win $50,000 like 11-year-old Nick Nate Smith of Owatonna did last week by shooting a hockey puck from 89 feet into a 1.5-inch by 3.5 inch hole at a Faribault Hockey Association fundraiser, you’re talking an entirely different story.

On the surface, this would seem black-and-white. Accomplish the amazing feat, win the prize.

However, Nate isn’t Nick. And it was Nick, Nate’s identical twin, whose name was pulled for the chance to score the $50,000 by sinking the puck into that incredibly small space.

The problem, however, is that Nick wasn’t in the hockey arena when his name was drawn, so Nate stepped in for his brother, made the shot and supposedly won the $50,000.

That is until the Smith family admitted to event organizers that Nate had subbed for Nick.

Now a Reno, Nevada, insurance company for the puck-shot event is investigating, the $50,000 payment remains in limbo and the story of the amazing shot and the follow-up controversy has gone national.

In our house, we’ve discussed this whole $50,000 hockey puck debacle numerous times already. Opinions have varied from:

  • Just give the kid the $50,000.
  • Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?
  • He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest.
  • What if a friend had stepped in and taken the shot? Would they give him the money?

Can you guess which comment is mine?

You better believe that the second response, “Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?”, is not my statement and resulted in a lecture from me about honesty and how the family eventually would have gotten “caught.”

I don’t pretend to know every detail related to the hockey puck shot event. But I do know this much: Nate isn’t Nick.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN to offer your opinion. Would you award the $50,000 to Nate Smith? Why or why not? Vote by submitting a comment.

IN A 24-HOUR unscientific online poll conducted by The Faribault Daily News, 63 percent of the 245 respondents said Nate Smith should get the $50,000. Thirty-two percent said he shouldn’t. And five percent checked “I don’t know.”

MEDIA FOCUS on the Smith story has been substantial. Click on the sources below to read some of the coverage.

CBS The Early Show

The Faribault Daily News:  the initial story published on August 12 and a follow-up story published on August 14

ABC News

National Public Radio

BY THE WAY, my comment is the third one: He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest. Choose to agree or disagree. It’s your shot.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling