Friends of VINP Kick Off Third Annual Online Auction

Maho Bay Camps artist AnnaLisa Jensen’s batik wall hanging is one of the items in Friends’ online auction.

For the third straight year, Friends of V.I. National Park has opened its annual fundraising auction to supporters across the globe.

Traditionally hosted during the non-profit’s winter gala on St. John, three years ago organizers switched the auction to an online format to increase participation.

“We decided to split the auction from the gala in 2009 because we had 200 people at the gala as our auction bidders versus this way online, where we can reach out to our family and friends and supporters in the states or around the world,” said Heather Ruhsam, Friends’ development director.

Using the Bidding for Good website,, Friends has been able to increase its auction audience as well as its fundraising efforts, which go to support the group’s many educational programs and projects supporting VINP.

Last year’s auction raised $3,000 more than Ruhsam’s fundraising goal of $25,000. So this year, the development director has set her sights higher.

“My goal is to make $30,000 from the auction to support our many programs in the VINP,” said Ruhsam. “Last year our goal was $25,000 and we raised $28,000, so we’re going even bigger this year.”

With more than 30 items like Christmas week at a luxurious ski in and ski out lodge in Utah, a seven night charter on a 54-foot Hylas, beautiful local art works and more, Friends is sure to meet its fundraising goals this year.

“We’re really excited about one of our headlining items which is a week at a two-bedroom, two-bath villa at Marriott Mountainside in Park City, Utah,” said Ruhsam. “The villa is ski in and ski out and sleeps up to eight people and the week is Christmas week 2012.”

Beach bums who prefer to stay off the slopes will want to bid on one of the local boat charters available in Friends’ online auction. Choose from a full day cruise to Jost Van Dyke on Wet Woody’s, a half-day champagne sail and snorkel aboard Adventuress, or bring the whole gang aboard Sadie Sea or Kekoa. Other charters in the auction include the week-long bare boat charter on a Hylas 54 and full day trip on Calypso.

Searching for some local art? Items up for bid include geokinetic sculptor Larry Lipsky’s latest creation, a batik wall hanging by Maho Camps resident artist AnnaLisa Jensen, and a blown glass bowl by Maho Bay Art Center visiting artist David Leppla.

Looking to lime the night away in style? Bid on the Love City Live’s special VIP package which includes tickets to a welcome event with headliner Morgan Heritage on January 27, two VIP tickets to the main concert on January 28 with food and full bar, and two spaces aboard the Love City Live power boat trip to the BVI on January 29. The package also includes two nights at the Inn at Tamarind Court for January 27 and 28.

Friends’ online auction also includes jewelry, portraits and more and Ruhsam is adding new items all the time.

“There is more jewelry and all sorts of new items coming, so people should keep checking the site to see what new packages have been added,” said Ruhsam.

The auction opened on Friday, November 18, at 9 a.m. and closes on Sunday night, December 4, at 8 p.m. E.S.T., which is 9 p.m. local time. And, be sure to mark those calendars for Friends’ annual gala, set this year for Saturday, February 4, at the newly completed home of Judy and Michael Skurnik, Marea on Ditliff Point.

“The gala is going to be great again this year,” said Ruhsam. “We have two bands lined up, In the Sand Band and the Jon Herington Band, who was the lead guitarist for Steely Dan for years.”

The evening will feature both raffles and a silent auction and even a special auction being hosted by R&I Patton, Ruhsam added.

“In addition to our normal raffle and silent auction, Rudy and Irene Patton are helping us with a special raffle this year as well,” said the development director. “They will pick out one special piece for us from their collection and we’ll sell a limited number of special raffle tickets for that item only.”

That special R&I Patton piece will be on display at the Patton’s Mongoose Junction store by December 1 with raffle tickets available at the Friends of the Park Store.

It’s not too late to donate items for the online auction either. To donate to Friends’ online auction call Ruhsam at 779-4940. And be sure to bid at before Sunday, December 4, at 8 p.m. EST.