It was the best evening at the beach to be found indoors at the Stettler Community Centre as the community gathered for the Heartland Youth Centre’s annual Awesome Auction on June 7.
The beach-themed fundraiser for the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs in Stettler drew in hungry members of the community for a lobster dinner, followed by a live auction and music.
During the entire evening, silent auctions were ongoing as bidders tried to outdo each other on items donated by generous business members of the community.
The annual event started 22 years ago as a “humble radio auction,” but after a few years, faced with overwhelming generosity from the community’s businesses, expanded to a dinner and live auction and has been going strong ever since.
Claude Dupont has volunteered his time as an auctioneer since the live auction began.
“People come out every year,” he said. “The faces change but it’s always sold out before the tickets are even printed.”
He said one of the reasons why the auction is such a successful event for the youth centre is because of the amount of work the centre does for the kids it serves.
“HYC goes above and beyond what they have to do,” Dupont said. “The community sees that, and that’s what they respond to.”
More than 75 volunteers – former employees at the youth centre, “graduates” of the centre’s programs, current members and employees and others all pitch in to make the event happen, according to Winnie Bissett, the executive director of Heartland Youth Centre.
“One of the things I really take pride in is the community volunteering,” she said, explaining that the kids at the youth centre help clean up every spring and work with people in the community in various volunteer roles. “It comes back to us full circle.”
Some of the items up for auction included a Team Canada jersey from the final game of men’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics, a train trip incursion from Via Rail, a cooler that can “keep ice from melting for days,” a mini-quad for kids, and much more.
Local members of the communities, community businesses or international businesses with local branches donate all of the items at the auction, meaning the profit goes purely to the youth centre.
According to Bissett, the auction is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the youth centre, and it never disappoints.
“People are so generous,” she said.
The kids at the youth centre get into the night as well, helping prepare and serve dinner, gathering dishes, creating the decor, and creating the sand castle masterpiece seen at the front of the hall as people entered.
Kevin Sorenson, MP for the riding of Crowfoot, of which Stettler is a part, stopped in to act as a guest auctioneer at the event, reaching back to his pre-politics days as an auctioneer. He gave Dupont a genuine run for his money, bringing in more than $6,000 for the Via Rail train incursion.
“I come every year,” Sorenson said. “It’s a privilege to help groups like Heartland Youth Centre with events like this.”
The amount raised at the auction was not available at press time.