On Monday afternoon, a chorus of voices sang out from under the large white tent erected on Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. Joanie Pimentel was leading the crowd, gathered for the annual Possible Dreams Auction, singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”
The annual event is Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ (MVCS) largest fundraiser. Funds raised support services unfunded by other sources that include CONNECT to End Violence, the Early Childhood Program and the Island Counseling Center.
In a phone conversation Tuesday morning, Julia Burgess, executive director of MVCS, said that the silent auction raised $9,525 and the live auction raised somewhere between $180,000 and $200,000. Those numbers do not include funds raised from ticket sales, the raffle, a post-auction dinner at Hooked restaurant, or seperate donations recieved, she said.
Although the live auction raised a significant amount, compared with the successes of years past the total has decreased. In 2011, the auction raised more than $250,000. In 2010, organizers said the auction raised approximately $225,000.
MVCS employs more than 110 people and more than 70 volunteers to provide human services. Over the years, the Possible Dreams Auction has raised almost $9 million to support those services.
Ms. Burgess said, “There are lot of not-for-profits on the Island. They are really good organizations. People have their favorite groups, so it is highly competitive. There is probably some burnout from so many fundraisers. Each year, it gets to be a little more competitive, and it’s too bad I have to use the word competitive. People only have so much money to contribute.”
Although event organizers said they were glad to see a full tent, attendance peaked near the middle of the live auction and waned towards the end. The live auction lasted about two and a half hours, a little less than last year’s running time of more than three hours.
Event organizers were pleased with the faster pace. Sandy Pimentel, chairmen of the Possible Dreams Auction Committee, said, “For me, I felt this great energy.” She offered thanks particularly to the young people who helped organize the auction: Lindsay Minor, Rachel Schubert, and Kerry Downing.
Ms. Burgess said that perhaps because of the younger organizers, “There were a lot more young people here. I think there was a real deal of enthusiasm at the auction. I think people enjoyed it last year, but I think they actually enjoyed it more this year.”
Olga Hirshhorn, a prominent Vineyard Haven seasonal resident and longtime attendee and benefactor of the Possible Dreams Auction, said, “I’ve been to all the auctions, and I thought this seemed to go as well as all of them. There were many good items, and some went for high and some went for low, but everyone was very satisfied.”
Ms. Hirshhorn was the donor of one of the “dreams” called “A ‘Life’ in the Day of Olga Hirshhorn,” in which a winner and his guest will have a private dinner with Ms. Hirshhorn. The item sold for $2,000.
Ms. Hirshhorn purchased a ticket aboard Trip Barnes’s bus, an item with multiple winners. Tickets for this “mystery tour” around the Island, $500 each, were the first items sold at the live auction. Mr. Barnes promised, “I will guarantee you that I will take you to places that you have never been before.” Mr. Barnes described past tours, where passengers ended their night on the Flying Horses, at 1 am.
Daniel Flynn served as auctioneer, with help from emcee Alex Friedman. Mr. Flynn reeled off quips about Mr. Friedman’s outfit, especially his feathered fedora. The two got a few good laughs out of the crowd, particularly when Mr. Flynn bounded off the stage and into a bidder’s lap.
The auction included a few competitive bidding wars. Relatively early in the evening, a chance to have professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. interpret your DNA test and discuss your genealogy over dinner went eventually for $10,000, to a rousing round of applause.
One of the most exciting moments was the bidding for item number 18, “Love Letters at the Vineyard Playhouse.” The winner and five of their friends would be guests of Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they perform the play next summer. The item sold for $17,000 to Laure Sudrea Rippe, the highest single priced item of the night.
“Love Letters” was only topped by item 24, “Ciao Bella (Restored Abruzzi Manor).” When two bidders came to a face off, the auctioneers decided to double the trip. Each bidder won his own week-long stay for a party of seven at the Italian manor for $13,000, a total of $26,000 for the auction. The winners will be guests of Sandy and Paul Pimentel.
Later in the evening, Ms. Burgess teased Ms. Pimentel that she would have to go to Italy twice. Ms Pimentel smiled and responded, “I’ll live with it.”
Unique items, a tour through the ancient “Caves of Paris” with pre-historian Duncan Caldwell of Aquinnah sold for $7,000. A trip to the set of director Doug Liman’s latest movie, “All You Need is Kill,” where the winner will meet Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, sold for $7,500.
Early in the evening, Tom Rancich approached the stage to promote the dream “Meal with a SEAL” in which the highest bidder would win a dinner for eight and view “Act of Valor” with Mr. Rancich, a former SEAL and counter-terrorism expert. The “dream” went for $5,000.
Although Mr. Rancich’s self-deprecating humor made the crowd laugh, in a more sober moment, Mr. Rancich reminded his audience why they had come. “People say [SEALs] are so brave, so courageous. Well, I will tell you, every day Community Services provides services to people far more courageous than I ever was. They are people that come in and say ‘I just need a little bit of help.’ And that’s huge.”