Dreaming is free, but if you want to make one of your far-fetched wishes come true — say, rehashing the plot of “Jaws” with Richard Dreyfuss over dinner — it should cost you, and help others, too.
That’s the premise behind the annual Possible Dreams auction, which offers one-of-a-kind “un-buyable experiences,” often involving celebrities like Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, and Jake Gyllenhaal, to fund the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS).
The signature charity event, which takes place August 2 at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs, has enjoyed a storied history since its start in 1979 and raised more than $8 million. Successful past bidders have lunched with the late Katharine Graham, Washington Post publisher, at the newspaper’s headquarters; toured the set of “Ghostbusters” with Dan Aykroyd; attended exclusive shows and sporting events; and acted in walk-on television parts. In 2003 Carly Simon raised $50,000 alone for the promise of a private serenade and the identity of the mysterious subject of her hit song “You’re So Vain,” drawing national headlines in the process.
But the Possible Dreams auction isn’t all about high price tags and glitzy, prestigious rewards. Proceeds go toward sustaining all MVCS programs that serve those in need including: CONNECT to end violence, Early Childhood Programs, Island Counseling, Disability Services, the Thrift Shop, and the newly created New Paths Recovery.
“So many people don’t know that Community Services exists and why it exists,” says Weit Bacheller, co-chairman of the Possible Dreams auction and president of the MVCS board of directors. “We need to make people aware that we are here, we are here for them, and we need everyone’s support.
“Like many public programs, funding for MVCS has been cut significantly in recent years,” says Ms. Bacheller. “The only difference is, with MVCS, we are trying to minimize the effect of the economy,” since people depend more on social services in times of distress. “In order to keep that going, we need to raise as much as we can, because you can’t ask people to pay more in times of hardship.”
This year, she says, “We hope for the best.” The Possible Dreams auction is made possible by a number of devoted supporters, some of whom donate and bid on multiple items each year, and others who recuse themselves for a bit and then return. “If people have to cut down, then that’s their call,” says Ms. Bacheller. “But the generosity of the donors as well as the bidders has been remarkable.”
More than 36 dreams have been offered for this year’s 32nd annual event, and more are coming, says Ms. Bacheller. Among those on the list: a walk-on part and tour of the set of Jim Belushi’s new CBS drama, “The Defenders”; four VIP tickets and pit passes to the inaugural Baltimore Indy Grand Prix, complete with a drive around the track with Al Unser Jr.; a behind-the-scenes visit with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace; and a trip for up to eight to a Provencal vineyard, with meals prepared by Espresso Love’s Carol McManus.
“We are all so grateful,” says Ms. Bacheller. “We couldn’t do it without the staff, the donors — especially since we’re not the only ones knocking on their door.”
Paula Lyons and Arnie Reisman, hosts of National Public Radio’s “Says You!” program are the auctioneers for the event along with the other members of the cast, filling the large shoes of Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Art Buchwald, who served as the “heart, soul and funny bone of the event” in his role as long-time auctioneer until his death in 2007. Ms. Lyons and Mr. Reisman will be joined by the Beetlebung Steel Band and recent Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate Hannah Marlin, who will perform at the auction. Tickets cost $25, and can be purchased online at ticketsmv.com.
“We have a wonderful venue,” says Ms. Bacheller of Ocean Park, where the auction relocated last year. “We’re so grateful to the town of Oak Bluffs. I think people are happy to be there, and we are happy to be there too.”
Immediately following the event, at approximately 7:30 pm, Tea Lane Caterers will serve a gourmet Dream Menu under a sprawling tent. To purchase tickets for the dinner, which cost $300 per person, call MVCS at 508-693-7900 ext. 267.
Though indulging in all of the evening’s pleasures can add up, Ms. Bacheller stresses that the money raised goes to support necessary community resources, and that tickets to the auction are priced low so that bidders and non-bidders alike can attend. A lot of small ticket-price donations can make a big difference, she says.
MVCS is building dreams, she explains, which is made possible by its team of volunteers and others’ contributions. “What we do is very much behind the scenes, but imagine us not being on this Island because we cannot afford to exist anymore.”
As for her own dream, Ms. Bacheller says that it would be “marvelous to earn a million dollars — it would be marvelous and it should be possible,” an obvious lilt in her voice. Then, she takes on a more serious tone, echoing the important underpinnings of the glitzy event. “My dream is that we will make as much money as we can,” she says, “because this will enable us to help more people, because the cuts are here to stay for this fiscal year.”
Possible Dreams Auction, 4 pm, Monday, August 2, Ocean Park, Oak Bluffs. mvcommunityservices.com. Parking is available for $5 at Waban Park, and benefits the Oak Bluffs Fire Department’s annual Fireworks. No parking will be allowed along Ocean Drive starting a few hours before the event, so as not to obstruct the ocean view.
Vanessa Czarnecki, a 2006 graduate of Boston University, is a freelance writer living in Chilmark. She most recently worked as managing editor of the Boston Phoenix.