Rotary turns to Wheeler Dealer Game raises funds for scholarships, needy children

March 01, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

People's Lumber is saddled with huge debts. Wagner Brothers is in bankruptcy proceedings and the Whistle Stop Book Store is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

These financial scenarios are possible in a new Monopoly-like board game in which Mount Airy businesses are bought, sold and mortgaged in high-stakes real estate deals.

The game, called Wheeler Dealer, is a fund-raising project developed by the Mount Airy Rotary Club. Local businesses have rushed to become players, paying from $100 to $600 to reserve a place on the 34-space board.

"I just can't believe the response," said Denny Mercer, a co-chairman of the Rotary's fund-raising committee and owner of Majestic Floors.

"I had a woman in here yesterday and she ordered eight games," Mr. Mercer said. "She said, 'Thank you for doing my Christmas shopping,' "

Delaine Hobbs bought spaces on the board for his two businesses -- People's Lumber and his photography studio.

"It puts your name out in front and helps the community through the Rotary Club," said Mr. Hobbs, a town councilman.

Mr. Mercer said 400 games have been ordered in advance and an additional 600 games will be on sale at local businesses when they arrive in June. But he is considering increasing his order based on the early response to the game, which costs $19.95.

Mr. Mercer got the idea of using a game featuring local businesses as a fund-raising project from an article in a Rotary Club magazine about a Michigan company that created Wheeler Dealer 14 years ago. The business, Michael Glenn Productions, has created town-specific games for the fund-raising activities of Rotary clubs and other groups nationwide.

Wheeler Dealer is modeled after the classic board game Monopoly, but Mr. Mercer said it's more complex.

The game instructions tell players to "invest your money skillfully enough and buy and sell property shrewdly enough to be the wealthiest wheeler-dealer at the end of the game."

Wheeler Dealer is played with $2.5 million in play money, with denominations from $1,000 to $50,000 -- larger bills than in Monopoly.

The properties are priced from $2,000 to $50,000.

"You have to allow for inflation," Mr. Mercer observed.

Players may face an Internal Revenue Service audit and can invest in the commodities futures market, as well as buying and selling properties.

In addition to its amusement value, Mr. Mercer considers the Wheeler Dealer game an effective advertising vehicle for businesses.

Each property on the board will include the company's logo and telephone number.

"With all the growth in the town, this lets people know that I'm out there, because they'll be playing with my property and trading my property," Mr. Mercer said.

Proceeds from sales of the Wheeler Dealer games will go toward funding Rotary scholarships and the organization's programs that benefit needy children.

For information about ordering the game, call Mr. Mercer at (301) 831-0869.

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