We were in the gym of Archbishop Walsh High School, which had been transformed; nicely set tables, French flags and large helium balloons with a map of the world. That’s because the fundraising evening was called “Passport to Europe”. Travis was just one of the school’s pupils roped in to be a waiter and a fine job they were doing too. Only a few precariously balanced bread rolls bit the dust en route to the table.
Before we sat down, we had to run the gauntlet of the “Silent Auction”. An adjoining room had tables laden with goodies, for which you had to bid by writing your number on a sheet, next to the amount you were prepared to pay. The trick with silent auctions is, if you really want the item, to know exactly when to join in – when nobody else is going to gazump you. If you join in too soon, you’ll either pay too much or get overtaken by the more generous. If you really want it, you can tick the “Buy Now” box but it’s a gamble; you might have got it for less if you’d played the game.
Having worked out the rules, I scrutinised the items. Sadly all the therapeutic massage vouchers had been snapped up by someone in urgent need of stress relief. They'd already impatiently ticked the “Buy Now” box. The two caged budgies were a bit of a commitment, the Ladies’ and Men’s golf basket with black and pink golf balls not quite my sort of thing and the 3-Tier Chocolate Fountain an occasion of sin. I turned to the classily cellophane-wrapped hampers, reluctantly passing over “God’s Girly Basket”, including a CD of Christian hits and a “back-pack Bible” and although I quite fancied “Coffee for Two”, containing “Two Stylish Mugs”, this was vetoed by hubby, who claimed the pattern on the Stylish Mugs gave him a headache. Then I spied something I really wanted (assuming, unlike last year, that we have a normal WNY winter this time around): lift passes for the local ski resort.
|A taste of things to come?
But that wasn’t the half of it. The “Live” auction, for the really big prizes, started during dinner. The hardware store owner’s son, who had children at the school, got up on the podium and hesitantly introduced himself. But he was only bluffing. In an instant, he was off into a sort of galloping yodel (my best approximation of how American auctioneers sound), straight out of the livestock market. “Auctioneering is his hobby”, explained my neighbour, as I gaped in awe.
That man worked miracles. A basketball signed by the US Women’s Olympic team went for hundreds of dollars, so did a carved wooden eagle, the school mascot. And by the time we left, they hadn’t even got to the star prize, a fortnight in Le Havre, which explains why it was called “Passport to Europe”.
Americans really are pretty good at fundraising. Even a small and hardly affluent town like ours has deep pockets of generosity. The prizes were all donated locally and seemingly endless. Without such generosity, I don’t think the school could survive.
Judging by the turnout for “Passport to Europe”, though, people really want it to stay in business.
I never got my ski tickets but hey, someone paid more for a good cause. Travis and his friends look like a great bunch of kids and if it helps them out, that’s fine by me.