Bids aplenty at 36th Annual Possible Dreams Auction

Close to $400,000 raised to support Community Services.

Boston-based comedian Jimmy Tingle began the evening with a short stand up routine. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ most significant charity event, the annual Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction, took place on Sunday evening, July 27,at the Winnetu Resort in Katama.  Very humid air throughout the event did little to stifle the zeal and altruism shown by those gathered. Spurred by Jimmy Tingle’s comedy-laced auctioneering and Guinevere Cramer’s charm, 267 paddle holders bid nearly $200,000 on “dreams” ranging from a private poker night with card shark Jesse Sylvia, to a Kenneth Vincent painting executed during the course of the auction, to a prehistoric art adventure in France with noted archaeologist Duncan Caldwell.

A donor to the auction for nearly a decade, Mr. Caldwell summed up three reasons for doing so while also shedding a bit more light on the trip he donated this year.

“The first is that this Island has provided me with a home and home-away-from-home amid a diverse and neighborly community since I was born,” he said. “The second is that Dolly Campbell and her colleagues at the Thrift Store were kind to my wife and me, when we were struggling to build and furnish our house here. The third is that the auction has repeatedly given us the opportunity to meet generous people who have jumped at the chance to see things that stretch the mind with questions and awe. This year’s winners [winning bidders] are especially lucky, since they’ll see some monumental new discoveries, including one of the most elaborate early Neolithic friezes in western Europe — which were just announced in an article I co-authored in ‘Antiquity.’”

Thanks to donors’ willingness to grant under-bidders the opportunity to buy certain lots they’d lost out on at the winning bid price, the dollar value of several items sold at the auction was multiplied by two, and in at least one instance by three.

“Obviously the generosity of our donors was amazing,” said Nell Coogan, MVCS Director of

Development and Community Relations, “Skip Gates once again doubled his dream donation [Who are you? lot, an individualized DNA exploration] and Allen Whiting was truly a magnificent surprise — tripling his auction item is absolutely amazing as it means he not only donates three paintings, but he will go with three different winning bidders to paint their landscape!

Jack Davies was also very generous — offering to double his dream and then donating $5,000 on top of his dream donation.” Mr. Davies donated a night drinking and dining with the owners of the Washington Capitals while watching the team play.

“Nat Philbrick and the KelDi was a huge hit,” Ms. Coogan said. “Something we were so excited about and it truly paid off this year!”

Indeed it was the Nat and Nantucket lot, a cruise to Nantucket on the 27.43 meter Burger motor yacht KelDi, followed by some quality time with author Nathaniel Philbrick, that landed the largest single bid, $13,000.

Prior to the main sale, five dozen items were offered at a silent auction dubbed “Silent Dreams.” Among the lots bidders hoped to win were opportunities to see their name in a novel, to meditate through belly dancing, or to dine at restaurants such as Lucky Hanks. The highest bid of the silent auction was $1,400 for a Norman Bridwell watercolor.

Sponsorships contributed significantly to the Possible Dreams bottom line this year. Technology titan HP gave $35,000, while media and communications giant Comcast/NBC-Universal gave $20,000, handily making them the top two sponsors.

“Comcast is committed to supporting the communities where our employees and customers live and work, and we’re proud to work closely with vital organizations such as Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which has positively impacted the lives of so many Vineyarders. We applaud their work and were thrilled to once again join many other businesses in sponsoring this wonderful event,” said Tim Murnane, Comcast’s vice president of external affairs for the Greater Boston Region.

“We had nearly $100,000 in sponsorships, both individual and corporate,” said Ms. Coogan, “as well as generous donations from folks who just wanted to give to us but who did not buy ‘dreams’ — which was more than $85,000 total!” There was also an old-time raffle that brought in another $5,000 to bring the grand total raised — including auctions, raffles, donations and sponsorships — to almost $400,000 for the evening.

More than 100 volunteers worked the auction as bookkeepers, caterers, runners, parking assistants, and technicians, among other roles.

“The volunteers were amazing,” Ms. Coogan said. “And the staff of the Winnetu was so warm and helpful — truly, great partners. Jimmy Tingle and Guinevere Cramer had great chemistry and enjoyed themselves, though they worked hard, that’s for sure!”

Julie Fay, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, who, like Ms. Coogan, wore a Stina Sayre dress during the auction in promotion of the Island Fashionista lot, explained what the money raised on Sunday will ultimately facilitate.

“The event raised much needed funds to support our existing Community Services programs and services and will help with some of the new programs we are rolling out during the coming year,” she said. “We intend to expand our services for Island Veterans and their families — more than 400 Vets live on Island. Community Services will also be starting a crisis intervention and hospital diversion program. We have also been working with a number of other organizations on Island — YMCA, M.V. schools, M.V. Hospital, Youth Task Force  — to establish the Island-Wide Youth Collaborative which is a care continuum for adolescents and their families struggling with behavioral health and substance abuse issues. Our intent is to make a wide array of services available for the first time on Island.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the last name of local poker champion Jesse Sylvia as Silva.