If there's a paradox in the Possible Dreams Auction, it's that the folks who run Martha's Vineyard Community Services count on the money it raises as a definite reality.
They need the funds, and over the past 22 years, this auction peddling wild and far-fetched dreams has anchored the development efforts at Community Services and enabled the agency to make daycare affordable to working Islanders and to offer counseling and substance abuse treatment to people with no insurance.
"We begin the year with a budget that really relies on at least several hundred thousand dollars of free care," said Community Services executive director Ned Robinson-Lynch. "The support we provide in those programs are things that state and federal grants don't cover."
That's the goal, and in the case of the Possible Dreams Auction, getting there is more than half the fun. Imagine the drama of watching people bid for a pair of tickets to the Academy Awards and an invitation to the party afterwards. Or closer to home, how about a role in an upcoming Jordan's Furniture commercial?
"The piece that fuels this is the generosity," said Kerry Scott, a community board member and co-chairman of the auction planning. "These people don't say no."
Among the donors are Mike Nichols, offering tickets to his latest play in New York, children's book author and illustrator Marc Brown, volunteering his skills as a babysitter, and the Pulitzer-winning historian David McCullough, giving a tour of the John Adams house in Quincy.
"It's one the best years for items," said auctioneer Art Buchwald, who will be back at the podium after taking a break last year while he recovered from a stroke. "I'm in good shape, and I'm ready to do it, he said."
Plus, Mr. Buchwald will get some assistance on the auction block from fellow hawkers Susan Klein, Rick Lee, Jules Feiffer, Marc Brown and Olga Hirshhorn.
But as always, it's Mr. Buchwald's energy that can tip the scales in the bidding. "We're really humming," said the venerable newspaper columnist.
Asked what he gets from the experience, he quipped, "There's so many things on this Island that need attention. With this one auction, you can do it all together. And then I can have a vacation besides."
Along with the happy news of Mr. Buchwald's return is the sad news that this year's auction will be without Katharine Graham, the Pulitzer-winning publisher of the Washington Post and West Tisbury resident, who was one of the pivotal donors to the Possible Dreams over the years.
"This year's auction is dedicated to Kay Graham who was such an incredible supporter and a good sport," said Ms. Scott. "She always came with a gang of friends, and she was such a wonderful presence."
Her dream offering - lunch and a tour of the Post - was a favorite among bidders.
But other dreams, while not replacing Mrs. Graham's, promise to help pick up the slack. How about hanging out with Car Talk's Click and Clack while they tape their goofy radio program? Or a tour of the 60 Minutes studio with newsman Mike Wallace; a round of golf with Wahington insider Vernon Jordan; or four tickets to the Broadway hit, The Producers?
Which one will bidders go mad for? "You never know," said Ms. Scott.
Admission is $20. Food and beverages will be served throughout the event, and music will be provided by the Beetlebung Steel Band.