Eight years ago, as the Benefit Auctioneer for the Southwest Florida Food and Wine Fest Auction, I helped to raise $70,000. At that
time, the organizers of the event were ecstatic in regards to the event’s success since it was the very first.
On Saturday, February 23, 2013, once again repeating my role as the Benefit Auctioneer, I was witness to an incredible and historic moment in the Food and Wine Fest’s fairly brief existence.
For the record – and to quote Walter Brennan’s character in the late 1960s TV series The Guns of Will Sonnett: “No brag – just fact!” I say that because at this year’s event a new fundraising record was set. The total: $2.5 million. But that’s not where this story ends – nor the final total.
At the 2012 Food and Wine Fest $2 million was raised – which was a record at that time. So, two days prior to the event, Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane of Benovia Winery pledged to match the total if the upcoming event in 2013 achieved the same record of $2 million or better.
Not to add any pressure on me and the organization, but four months prior to the event Tom Golisano had issued a separate challenge match as well. In fact, his offer – although presented earlier – matched the Anderson/Dewane pledge if the goal of $2 million was reached.
In other words, the raising of $6 million was a possibility. We just had to cross the $2 mil mark first.
So, the “pressure-filled” afternoon was set. And although the monies raised were going to assist the local Children’s Hospital Building Fund – the event got off to a bit of a slow start. The auction lots were selling well, but we were not on track to reach the magical number.
And then……the momentum kicked in. Time flew by. The crowd cheered. Wine was consumed. I was doing everything but standing on my head. And the next thing you know the final minutes of the auction were upon us as the last item sold for $150,000. That brought our total up to $2,455,000. We had exceeded our goal of $2 million. But, the crowd wanted to make a bigger impact for the Golisano’s Children’s Hospital.
So, within 45 seconds we were able to raise another $45,000 – thanks to several generous guests who despised that odd number and wanted the event to reach the once unthinkable, unimaginable plateau of an even $2.5 million! We made it! WOW!!
Take the auction’s $2.5 million. Add the individual’s matching challenge gift of $2.5 million. And add in the matching challenge gift of $2.5 million pledged by the couple and that gave us a final-final total of $7.5 million. Not bad for an afternoon which start at $0.
I cannot think of a profession more rewarding than the one I chose. And thanks to all those wonderful, generous attendees and the unfathomable generosity of the two very special donors for their matching challenge gifts – February 23, 2013 was not only a day to remember. It was a day to celebrate – for the children.