Victor Hugo once said, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”
For 30 years Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has quite literally been counting on dreams to ensure the future of the Island residents who depend on the care it provides.
Since 1979, the Possible Dreams Auction has been one of the most successful fund-raising events held on the Island, offering bidders the chance to score a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to help the core of the Island community at the same time.
“All the money goes towards unfunded care for the agency,” said auction cochair Jim Shane. “It goes to help the 6,000 people that are directly impacted by [Community Services].” This year, the organization is more in need than ever for a successful auction turnout. Early in July, Community Services released their budget for fiscal year 2010, which calls for a 10 per cent reduction in spending. It means salary and programs cuts.
“The auction is virtually the only people’s auction,” said Mr. Shane. “These monies go directly to the health and well-being of people. I would think that would be one of the reasons that we do get the great support from all walks of life.”
On Monday, auctioneers Rick Lee and Susan Klein will open the bidding for more than 40 dreams from the Ocean Park bandstand in Oak Bluffs.
This auction will be the first in the park, and auction cochair DiAnn Ray feels certain that they’ve finally found their ideal spot. “This is the perfect venue for the perfect event,” she said.
It was Mrs. Ray’s husband, Sandy, who pitched the idea for an auction of otherwise unbuyable opportunities to Community Services three decades ago. They liked the idea, and ended up raising more than $1,500 in that first year, thanks in no small part to a beloved national icon with a special connection to the Vineyard. Seasonal resident Walter Cronkite joined in the effort that first year by offering the opportunity to set sail with the legendary news anchor aboard his boat. Mr. Cronkite returned year after year with his dream sail, which became an auction highlight.
“As the auction grew, Walter’s dream grew with it. For many, many years it was the top dream, and the one everybody used to wait for,” said Mrs. Ray. “People would literally come to the auction to see who was going to bid on Walter Cronkite, and see how much the sail on his boat would go for.”
In recent years, when his health wouldn’t allow him to sail, Mr. Cronkite offered different dreams. Last year, he put up his harbor site for a clambake. For his kindness and generosity over the years, the auction committee decided to dedicate this year’s event to the memory of Mr. Cronkite. “We owe so much to him,” explained Mrs. Ray.
In his honor, the committee has assembled one of the best collections of dreams in the auction history. “I don’t think we have a bad dream,” joked Mr. Shane. One dream that he and Mrs. Ray agree offers a particularly special Island experience is an afternoon sail with boat designer Nat Benjamin, featuring a sunset serenade from Carly Simon and her son Ben Taylor. Photographer Alison Shaw will come along to capture the moment on camera. “That is the ultimate Island dream,” said Mrs. Ray.
Other dreams include a visit to the Capitol Hill studio of Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, and a trip to New York city to act as an extra in Peter Farrelly’s new comedy short, which stars Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman. One lucky winner will score a trip to Sao Paolo, Brazil and tickets to the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“I’d hate to leave anybody out,” said Mrs. Ray. “The dreams are all wonderful and we have so many celebrities involved this year.”
“There are some donors whose dreams are coming true as well,” said Mr. Shane. “Carol McManus has been working for years to put together this particular dream of hers.” Ms. McManus, who owns Espresso Love in Edgartown, is offering up to eight people a weeklong stay in a chateau on the grounds of one of France’s oldest vineyards in Provence. This dream also gives bidders the chance to consolidate funds. “[It is] for up to eight people, so it’s something that can be syndicated,” said Mrs. Ray.
In the past, dreams have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. This year, in an effort to make some dreams more accessible, the committee has created an auction lightening round. “The concept is, looking for items that are less expensive, trying to go back to the old days,” said Mr. Shane. The lightening round will feature shorter auctions with strictly Vineyard-related items up for bid. “It’s going to happen fast,” he warned. “It’s meant to be viable items because things have gone through the stratosphere.”
In their most successful year, the auction netted over $800,000 for Community Services. Generally, the profits fall somewhere around the $600,000 mark. “At no time do I consider it a negative that one year might be a little less than another,” said Mr. Shane. “It’s [still] a substantial amount of money.”
The $25 price tag for admission into the auction makes it affordable enough for anyone to attend. “It is probably the least expensive fundraiser [on the Island],” said Mr. Shane, “to have a great afternoon of entertainment, and to have some fun, and if nothing else, to come and experience this gorgeous location with us for a couple of hours.”