The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Ohio Chapter held its 12th annual Guys Night Out fundraiser June 1, welcoming 320 supporters into Beechmont Country Club in Orange.

Lane Schlessel, Ohio chapter director, told the Cleveland Jewish News that while fundraising is constant, the organization broke its sponsorship record for the event. Co-chaired by FIDF supporters Richard Uria and Jeff Cohen, the event featured a liquor bar, a kosher strolling dinner, a cigar lounge, a scotch and tequila bar, raffle drawings and casino games.

Some of the raffle items included getaway trips to Israel and Aruba, local business gift packages, a Cleveland Guardians game outing package, a day trip to Covered Bridge Outfitters & Lodge in Conneaut, an FIDF swag basket, restaurant packages and jewelry sets.

For the third year, FIDF Ohio chapter also adopted a battalion of soldiers, the Gaza Division and Northern Gaza Brigade, raising money to provide for their well-being and needs. Funds raised also support flights home as well as recurring homes for IDF soldiers in Israel.

Schlessel said the turnout was “more than expected,” especially since many communities still feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said guys from all over Ohio from Cleveland to Akron, Canton and Columbus came to show their support.

“We’re still recovering from the pandemic, so you never know who is still coming out,” he said. “Now that it seems the pandemic has taken a back seat to life, we’re thrilled with the number of people that came out. Even new people who have never been.”

The hallmark of a successful event is when people don’t want to leave at the end of the night, Schlessel said, adding that was exactly the situation on June 1.

“People were lingering on the patio until after 11 p.m.,” he said. “That’s how you measure success. No one wants to leave. And now even a few new people want to go on a mission to Israel and get more involved. A lot of great things come out of events like this. It’s just great to hear people say this is what they look forward to every year.”

Looking at the event from the point of view of an attendee, Schlessel said the palpable excitement of Guys Night Out is something he gets excited about each year.

“I love when people ask how the chapter is doing and how they can help soldiers,” he said. “People know they’re coming for a good time. But when they come to you to ask how they can further help the cause, you know you did it right.”

Schlessel said fundraising doesn’t end with their events as FIDF Ohio chapter accepts donations year-round.

“They can go directly to our website to support,” he said. “Every gift from an Ohio resident goes right to the chapter and directly helps soldiers.”

The FIDF Ohio chapter was founded in 1986 and has over 3,000 supporters in Cleveland, Youngstown, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo, Schlessel said.