When the bidding opened up on item No. 63 Saturday night at Russell Child Development Center's 32nd annual Fantasy Tree Festival fundraising event, the big donors answered.
Item No. 63 in the live auction, from which proceeds benefited RCDC, was a little different from the rest. Auctioneer Kent Scott of Scott Auction in Garden City announced he was calling for a pure donation for RCDC program equipment, including a much-needed kid kart, which looks like a stroller but functions as a wheelchair with necessary padded seating and positioning. It can cost $2,550 or more for a single unit.
As soon as Scott asked for a $1,000 donation, there were at least three volunteers. Seven more people donated $500 toward the cause, while 25 others donated $250 or $100. In just a few minutes $10,350 was raised for program equipment.
“I am excited. We are fortunate at RCDC that we have wonderful community support,” said RCDC Executive Director Deanna Berry, who added that the agency sold 255 tickets and raised more than $40,000 through the event. “Many of these people are from outside Garden City. When we think community, we really think our southwest Kansas community.”
Hundreds of items were auctioned off Saturday night at the Clarion Inn Conference Center. According to Berry, most of the proceeds are used for the tiny-k early intervention program that provides home-based services in 13 southwest Kansas counties to eligible infants and toddlers up to age 3 who have developmental delays and disabilities. Each year, the program serves approximately 500 children and their families.
“These are little guys maybe born prematurely, born with syndromes,” she said. “It helps us fill the funding gap for these programs, making sure we can have the qualified staff we need: early childhood special education teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, social workers and registered nurses.”
RCDC serves 19 counties in southwest Kansas, including Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane, Ness, Hamilton, Kearny, Finney, Hodgeman, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Gray, Ford, Morton, Stevens, Steward, Meade and Clark counties.
Along with the auctions, the evening featured a buffet meal. The dining room was filled with 77 items that were sold during the two-hour live auction, including six decorated christmas trees, a snowflake table setting for eight including flatware and cotton napkins, and a Kansas State football helmet signed by Wildcats coach Bill Snyder that went for $1,200.
Cindy Unger partnered with Suzi Fuller, both of Garden City, to decorate the Holly Jolly Christmas Tree, which sold for $500. The 6-and-a-half-foot tree featured "Let it Snow" glass balls, a black and white happy holiday ribbon, a snow-covered red ribbon and icy red balls all underneath a giant red top hat.
“They had asked for a red and white tree, so we started with the red and white ornaments they gave us, and we added the top hat theme and incorporated snowmen,” Unger said, noting that she and Fuller shopped for two hours and spent an afternoon putting it together. “It’s just a fun way to be a part of a great cause.”
Local businessman Meda Munoz, 39, of Garden City, said he was invited because he had given to the organization in the past.
“We have a business here in town. We make money and like to give back,” he said, revealing that he bought a gym membership for $325, as well as several silent auction items.
New to the event this year was the Rudolph Ticket Raffle, which featured eight gift baskets valued close to $150 each. Attendees could purchase five tickets for $5, 10 tickets for $10 or 25 tickets for $20.
Jonathan Almaguer, 30, of Garden City won a bath bliss basket that contained towels and everything you needed for a bath.
“It feels good to help this great organization we have in this town,” he said. “It’s a great asset in the community to help the little ones develop and grow to their best potential.”
Damon McDonald, 40, of Garden City, bought the 7-foot Radiance Christmas Tree decorated in gold and silver for $600.
“Well, my wife wanted it, and it’s for a good cause,” he said. “I hope she likes it.”
The silent auction contained 80 items, including model farm equipment, a hot cocoa basket, a cat stocking, a Christmas music box and a college finals survival basket.
Other items that were auctioned off included Kendra Scott earrings and necklace that went for $200, a coffee table that looked like an old fashioned sled that went for $125, two 15-ton loads of sand that went for $475 and a rustic Christmas tree that went for $1,075.
The highest bid item of the night was a Vanguard Sporter 302 24G rifle that went for $1,500.