A visit to the Neolithic age, a vacation to a Greek island and a trip 16 million light years away; places you could only visit in your wildest dreams were made a reality Sunday night at the 36th annual Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction.
A total of $430,000 was raised at the annual fundraiser benefiting Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. The amount is slightly lower than last year’s figures.
“It’s amazing how many generous people have come out to support the services we provide, and how many more have contributed in ways you don’t see,” said Community Services executive director Juliette Fay.
About 400 people crowded under a tent at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Katama as comedian Jimmy Tingle joked, wheedled and coaxed the crowd to bid on elaborate dreams, ranging from a vacation on a Greek island to tickets to the Hollywood premiere of the forthcoming Hunger Games film. Mr. Tingle was assisted by local personality Guinevere Cramer.
A dream offered by renowned Vineyard painter Allen Whiting to commit to canvas the high bidder’s favorite Island scene was the largest single money-maker this year, after Mr. Whiting agreed to paint for three different bidders at $12,000 each.
Proceeds from the evening, which also included a silent auction, a raffle and a dinner, help support Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which provides a range of human services from child care to psychological counseling, addiction programs and behavioral counseling.
Ms. Fay said that thanks to the generosity of the event, Community Services is expanding services to 400 Island veterans and their families, establishing a crisis intervention program and creating a care continuum program for adolescents who struggle with behavioral and mental health issues.
The range of services offered by Community Services touches Islanders at all stages of life, evident in the 100 or so volunteers who rallied behind the auction this year. With yellow flags at the ready, volunteer spotters flicked their wrists like magic wands as they called out bids in the crowd.
Two different bidders paid $8,000 each to have Harvard professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr. analyze their DNA.
A small bidding war was sparked over a trip cruising with author Nathaniel Philbrick on a yacht to Nantucket, garnering a final bid of $13,000.
A visit to secret prehistoric caves outside of Paris led by archaeologist Duncan Caldwell will include a peek at a newly discovered Neolithic stelae seen by only a handful of people in the world. Two bidders paid $6,000 for that dream.
Capt. Buddy Vanderhoop was fresh off his boat when he raced down-Island to speak on behalf of his dream: a trip on the Tomahawk with Mr. Vanderhoop and Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, followed by your fresh catch prepared by Jacob Vanderhoop.
“I can’t think of a better way to donate my services,” he said. “I just got of the boat an hour ago … the fishing has really picked up. It’s the best time you can have with your clothes on.”
Andy Heyward promised a memorable evening aboard his boat the Gadget followed by stargazing in the backyard of Mr. Heyward’s Katama home at the Gadgetorium, the Island’s only working observatory. Mr. Heyward, who created the cartoon Inspector Gadget, boasted an alien landing pad in the back that has “actually attracted some aliens,” he said. “I’m not kidding."
About halfway through the event, Mr. Tingle offered up a surprise auction item – himself. A performance for an office party or family function, he said.
“I will spend the night and have breakfast with you and your children,” he said.
A trip to Provence donated by Carol McManus offered four days in France in the area “where Cezanne and Renoir spent their final days.”
“So I say to you, spend your final days in Provence with Carol,” Mr. Tingle said.
The live auction alone raised around $200,000, auction co-chairman Liza Cowan May said Monday. She said donations are still coming in and a few dreams from the live auction are expected to be doubled. Pledges from 24 different event sponsors brought in around $100,000, she said.
Ms. May said the event has evolved over the years from live auction items raising the bulk of the night to a variety of fundraising tools.
“It’s not the heyday of Art Buchwald time, the demographic is totally different,” she said, referring to the late humorist and longtime auctioneer of the event. “I think we still have a rough economy and people are still tight on their belts.”
Ms. May said she saw more local faces this year.
“We’re bringing back Islanders to the event and a lot of younger artists donated this year,” she said. “It was fun to see. I was truly humbled by the number of people who came up to me and said how much they enjoyed themselves.”