Some dreams come in our sleep, others in the middle of the day, and for those who depend on Martha’s Vineyard Community Services throughout the year, dreams can continue to be realities, thanks to the 32nd annual Possible Dreams auction last night.
In less than four hours the auction brought in over $225,000 through items such as a round of golf with lawyer Vernon Jordan Jr., an evening serenade from Carly Simon, and a dinner with notable Vineyard women Alison Shaw, Mary Steenburgen and Olga Hirshhorn. A dinner after the auction raised about $66,000, bringing the night’s fund-raising total to $291,000.
“Everyone has done as much as possible, it’s up to the dreamers now,” said Wiet Bacheller, president of Community Services, before the event started. “I want people to leave with the satisfaction that they have in one way or another helped the community. We are what our name says.”
After a year’s worth of planning, nearly 1,000 people including Patricia Neal, Geraldine Brooks, Alan Dershowitz, Kate Taylor and Doug Liman filled the tent at Ocean Park to support programs such as Early Childhood Programs, disability services, the Island Counseling Center, and a new program this year called New Paths to Recovery Program.
“The Vineyard is a special place,” Mrs. Bacheller said. “When someone needs help, they step up to the plate.”
The event was hosted by the entertaining cast of NPR’s quiz-talk show Says You, and with auctioneers Arnie Reisman and Paula Lyons at the helm, audience members were treated to a round of their game and laughs throughout the evening.
Many auction items were accompanied by personal anecdotes of winners past, including Alan Dershowitz sharing his story about traveling to France with archeologist Duncan Caldwell to explore prehistoric caves. “It was the most unbelievable time,” Mr. Dershowitz recalled, encouraging the bidders to go higher. “No one knows where they are except Duncan, he won’t even let you take a GPS with you. We paid serious money for it and we would do it again. It was an experience of a lifetime.”
Mr. Dershowitz proved to be his usual persuasive self, as the item drew in $11,000 for two separate bidders, totalling $22,000.
As spotters waved yellow flags, darting from one bidder to another, the prices kept going up and the competition grew heated. “It’s the most exciting thing you’ll ever do,” Says You member Barry Nolan said, introducing one of the biggest dreams of the night: a chance to ride in an Indy car on a grand prix street race course.
It was as though the audience was right there on the racecourse; bidders bounced back and forth and energy ran high. “I’m going to give you the ride of your life,” race car driver and Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. told the crowd. “Ten per cent of all Indy championships were won by the Unser family,” Mr. Nolan reminded the crowd. “Alan Dershowitz will represent you for a speeding ticket if you bid $10,000.”
John Bacheller was the high bidder at $15,500 that included the drive, along with four tickets to the Indy 500 and a personal tour of the course. “What did you do?” asked his surprised wife Mrs. Bacheller. “I should have been holding down his arms.”
“I’m incredibly excited,” Mr. Bacheller said. “I started bidding and I just couldn’t stop. I’m into racing and I have a license to drive but I’ve never gone that fast,” he said, adding:
“As far as helping the community, there’s nothing better you can do.”
And the presence of the late auctioneer Art Buchwald was felt throughout the night; his photograph was displayed behind the new auctioneers. “He’d be thrilled,” said his daughter in law Tamara Buchwald. “Just to keep this going was so important to him.”
A weeklong experience at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., next spring captured the hearts and wallets of two separate bidders, who paid $15,000 apiece for the dream. Ed Doherty was one of the winners who will be treated to a VIP experience including dinner with golfing greats Gary Player, David Leadbetter, Ernie Els and Paula Creamer.
“We come every year,” Mr. Doherty said. “We always love this event.” Mr. Doherty said he would bring his wife and son to the match next year.
“My dream is the big things from last year go for more this year,” said Laura Scher.
The most notable dream this year was a trip to the south of France donated by Carol McManus.
Mr. Doherty again was the top bidder on this item, paying $25,000 for a culinary adventure at a chateau in Provence.
Other top items included dinner with former CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson, along with director Doug Liman. When the bidding stalled at $8,000, Mr. Liman announced he would throw in a pair of tickets to the premier of his new movie Fair Game, based on Ms. Plame’s story. The add-on drove the final bid to $10,000.
A moonlight serenade with Carly Simon was a last-minute addition to the list of dreams; Ms. Simon, who has been a big draw in the past at the auction, will welcome a group of eight into her home to roast marshmallows or sip champagne by the fire. And while she could not attend the auction due to a broken foot, her dream sold for $11,000.
Olga Hirshhorn was celebrating her birthday yesterday, along with 25 years of donating to the auction. Mrs. Hirshhorn was offering a brunch at her home, and she fondly recalled auctions from years past. “In the beginning I bought everything having to do with the Island,” she said, wearing an honorary medal from Community Services around her neck. “I love being here and helping to get money. Community Services needs it.” Her brunch brought in $3,500.
The last item of the night wasn’t the biggest seller, but it nevertheless drew big cheers from the crowd: an evening with the creative women of the Vineyard.
“These are woman who followed their passion and made a difference in this world,” a winner from years past told the audience. She recalled how after having dinner with Ms. Steenburgen, Mrs. Hirshhorn, Rose Styron, Victoria Pearman, Ms. Shaw, Diane English, Geraldine Brooks and Patricia Sullivan, her three daughters all decided to change their paths of study in college.
As the sun began to set over the beautiful park on a summer night, Community Services executive director Julia Burgess told the audience:
“This is the primary community event of the summer. And we are blessed to have such a wonderful community on the Vineyard.”