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Auction raises funds for Boys & Girls Club

More than 1,000 attend charity event at Mann Biomedical Park

Posted: June 19, 2008 1:19 a.m.
Updated: August 20, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Guests at the auction enjoyed balmy weather in a relaxed outdoor setting at the Mann Biomedical Park.

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More than 1,000 hopefuls stepped up to the plate last Saturday night at the Mann Biomedical Park as the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Foundation hosted its 37th annual Benefit Auction.

With the theme of "A Night on the Diamond," the hard work of triple digits of volunteers and the generosity of a community that truly cares about its young people, a grand slam success was almost guaranteed. But this time the B&G Club folks and friends outdid themselves - and pitched a perfect game.

Here are a few of the statistics:
* The weather - Perfect. Sure it was warm at the 5:30 p.m. start time, but not too warm, and this translated into delightful temperatures after the sun went down. There was no need to fire-up the heat lamps, which stood at the ready.

* The ball park - The natural-grass "playing field" was surrounded by shade trees and decked out with a spacious stage, video screen and pavilions and kiosks for vital services such as the bar, raffle ticket purchase, coffee service, and root beer/Cracker Jack selection (later dessert offerings).

A host of folks in white prepared dinner in tents along the "first base sideline" and a studio-style light crane lit up the night after the sun went down. The head table was even decked out as a small baseball field, complete with artificial turf. Between happenings on stage, the mood music was lively classic rock. 

* The crowd - The baseball theme ensured a relaxed style of dress, which was perfect for a near-summer evening and many of the folks in attendance wore baseball jerseys and hats. This, combined with good food, drink and friends - and the expectation of getting bargains on auction items - set a playoff mood.

* The game - A score of tables held bid boards for hundreds of silent auction items, and many of these items were available for viewing and fondling to ensure the best bids. These ranged from bicycles to gift baskets, sports and entertainment packages, sports memorabilia, services, dinners, pet doors, a pallet of bricks and a reclining chair. Just about anything you could imagine (and anything you couldn't) was available.

The live auction presented bidders with some 70-plus treasures, including vehicles (a 1967 VW bug and a 2008 Ford Focus lease), adventure and travel packages, sporting events, sports memorabilia, jewelry, dining and entertainment packages and family services.

* The umpires - The event's co-chairs were Greg and Chell Amsler, and the master of ceremonies was the SCV's own Rick Chambers, news anchorman for KCAL 9. The auctioneer was Mark Schenfeld, accompanied by his bid spotters.

Play by play
With an hour or so of socializing and auction-item perusing under their belts, the guests gathered at their tables for dinner, and jazz balladeer Caesar strolled among them crooning "I wish you love." Then event co-chairs Greg and Chell Amsler took the stage and he reminded everyone that "everything tonight is for the kids."

After they thanked the volunteers and sponsors, they introduced emcee Rick Chambers, who noted, "There is a great need in this community and we're hoping you open your hearts (and wallets)."

As the shrimp and walnut salad was served, Abbott and Costello's classic routine of "Who's on First?" played on the video screen - bringing out smiles all around.

The main course of braised short ribs or sea bass made its way to the tables and at just after 7 p.m., 18-year-old Francesca Riso belted out the "Star Spangled Banner."

Boys & Girls Club Foundation Executive Director Ivan Price then prepared to select the Grand Slam Raffle winner. These tickets had sold at $100 each, but the winner would have his or her choice of any live auction item except the head table at next year's auction.

After a little suspenseful rotation of the ticket barrel, Price pulled out number 355 - Gary Fortner, who came to the stage and chose auction item No. 25, the Ocean Club Paradise Island Bahamas trip, donated by Richard and Marian Sandnes, IHOP Saugus and Canyon Country, and the Travel Bug. Fortner said he and his wife, Kristin, had purchased 30 of the Grand Slam tickets and thought the Bahamas trip would be fun. "We've never been to the Bahamas," he said.

Next, Dance Studio 84 took the stage, and the young ladies, dressed in tutus and baseball gear, rocked tunes such as "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Then Chambers brought up auctioneer Mark Schenfeld and it was "play ball!"

The first item up was a timely package of four tickets to game five of the NBA finals the next day (Sunday) at Staples Center. The purchase bid was $6,000 and, unless the winner was a Celtic fan, it was probably well worth it, since the Lakers won that game.

Over the next two hours, the live auction continued, and the only distractions were the bar and the opening of the dessert pavilion (fruit, cakes, cookies, chocolate-dipped strawberries, hot-fudge brownies with ice cream and more).

A Pebble Beach foursome with private jet went for $8,750. A four-pack of tickets to a taping of the CBS hit show "Two and a Half Men" went for $2,500. A custom LASIK procedure went for $3,100. A cocktail party and movie screening at a private Rodeo Drive theater sold twice for $4,500. Foundation executive committee member Gary Condie purchased a Remington bronze, "Mountain Man," for $1,100.

The 1967 Volkswagon bug went to Mike and Michele Downing for $6,500. They said Michele Downing had grown up driving one of these and that their teenage daughters would drive it - though they would have to learn how to use a stick. "We wanted to carry on the legacy," Mike Downing said.

The head table at the 2009 Benefit Auction went to Don and Cheri Fleming for $15,000, which he thought was a good deal. Cheri Fleming noted that there are a lot of great auctions in the SCV but the Boys & Girls Club auction "stands alone." As just one example she offered up the head table decoration. "The way they do it up makes it so special," she said. Then she praised the efforts that everyone put into the event and the participation from the community.

Auction item No. 45 was Heroes & High Hopes, which was a mini-auction of its own. Here guests are asked to step up and make cash contributions. This was, of course, after watching a touching video on just what the contributions mean to the local boys and girls.

This netted four $5,000, one $2,500, three $1,000, six $500 and nine $100 donations.

The last few auction items then went up for bids, including a 1.35-carat diamond ring ($1,500), and the final item of the evening, a package including an oversized stuffed lion, elephant and giraffe from FAO Schwartz, with four passes to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park ($700).

It would take some time for everyone who purchased items to check out, but no one was complaining.
Greg Amsler felt the evening's turnout was "fantastic," and he noted that all the tables were sold out and all the auction items were going at or above what everyone was hoping for. "It just goes to show you how generous this valley is," he said.

Gary Condie said this was his 33rd auction and seeing how it has grown over the years was exciting. "It's wonderful to see how this valley supports the club," he said.

Ivan Price noted that the Grand Slam Raffle alone took in $30,000 and that the money was all free to the club since the trip Fortner selected had been donated. As of Tuesday, the net proceeds from the auction were just shy of $300,000 - and all for the youth in the SCV.

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