Just Call Him Mr. Chase the Ace
By Jesse Green
He used to go by his given name. But, these days Nathan Arias mostly answers to “Mr Chase the Ace.” The new name is a badge of honour; Chase the Ace has taken the Treaty 6 area by storm, creating a lot of excitement and supporting the youth and communities in a big way.
It started a couple years back, when the junior and senior playgrounds at Clifford Wuttunee School on the Red Pheasant Cree Nation needed upgrades. Fundraising began in the regular ways.
“We were making about $300 or $400 a week with bingos. And we thought, how else can we do this? It’s going to take us 30 years to get this playground!” said Arias.
He had seen Chase the Ace videos from out East. In 2015, a small-town Nova Scotia fundraiser hit rockstar status when the jackpot grew to a million dollars. People travelled from as far as Alberta, and it was not uncommon for people to arrive Friday night and sleep in their cars just to get a chance to buy a ticket for the Saturday draw. It was huge, exciting and so much money.
Arias approached Lionel Pillar, Clifford Wuttunee’s Principal, and they decided to try this new game. They set it up online; tickets were available to purchase online and Facebook live was getting big at the time, so they created a Chase the Ace page and Arias ran the live broadcasts.
They went in expecting to raise a few thousand dollars. That year they raised $463,000.
It didn’t come easily at first, though. “At the time, no one knew what Chase the Ace was. We’d sit at gas stations trying to sell the tickets… we had no traction at the beginning,” said Arias. The older elementary school kids went along to conferences and put in time at the gas stations, helping explain the game and what the money was for.
“Then, after about 25 draws, the pot was at about $60,000, and it just started going crazy. Some weeks winners made a $30,000 profit,” said Arias.
It was around this time that Arias lost his name and became Mr. Chase the Ace and coined the famous line, “May Chase the Ace forever be in your favour.”
They took a break after the first draw; the one for the Clifford Wuttunee School playground. But Arias’ inbox was full with people wanting to run their own Chase the Ace draws. Soon after, they ran a draw for the Sweetgrass School who needed a van to transport kids to activities.
Five bands then formed the Chase the Ace Treaty 6 group; a way to work together rather than running smaller draws that would compete against one another. The Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nations, Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Sweetgrass First Nation, Moosomin First Nation and the Saulteaux First Nation joined and each have two representatives on the the committee.
“It has had a huge impact, for the community members. Let’s get things done,” said Arias.
It might look like just another playground, but the equipment at Clifford Wuttunee School on the Red Pheasant Cree Nation is much more than that. That equipment started it all; generosity, community spirit and a little help from lady luck.
When he’s not being Mr. Chase the Ace, Nathan Arias is the owner and creator of IOPPS, a national job board called Indigenous Opportunities. You can catch him on one of his podcasts; the IOPPS Morning Show, the IOPPS Indigepreneur Show and IOPPS Goes Live; a showcase of Indigenous success.
Chase the Ace is a modified 50/50 game where tickets are bought and entered into a draw. Organizers draw one winning ticket each week. That winner has the chance to draw a playing card; if they get the ace of spades, they win the jackpot. Anything other than the ace of spades sees that ticket holder’s percentage rolled into the jackpot, and the game continues the next week.
The Clifford Wuttunee School playground draw itself raised $363,000 with another $100,000 coming from Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority charitable gaming grant program.