GHS’ 24th Annual Auction Raises $150,000 for Scholarship Fund

Some Love City residents gifted $100 for the chance to win big like golden ticket winner Johnathon Doran.

After dancing under the stars at Cruz Bay Prime until the wee hours of the night, Gifft Hill School officials deservedly rested their tired feet.

The school hosted its 24th Annual Auction on Saturday, March 13, at the Westin Resort and Villas — a night that included plenty of laughs as well as tears of joy.

In total, the school raised about $150,000 from the auction which will go to the GHS scholarship fund that supports 60 percent of its students. The amount was $25,000 more than was raised at last year’s auction, explained GHS development director Beth Jones.

“There were so many acts of generosity that night, it really was amazing,” said Jones. “I was so worried that due to the economy people wouldn’t be as willing to give this year, but we had such an overwhelming response. We had people stopping by the day before the event to drop off items for the auction.”

“I don’t think it could have gone better,” Jones said.

One highlight of the night was a touching tribute to GHS preschool teacher Val Prakas, who has been with the school for 16 years. Even as GHS Lower School principal Beth Knight announced the tribute, Prakas had no idea who was going to be honored, explained Jones.

Residents dressed to the nines, above, registered at the auction.

“She’s so humble that even as Ms. Beth was speaking, Val didn’t think it was her we were honoring,” said Jones. “Not until the video came on did she realize we were honoring her and then she was so excited.”

The school secretly flew in several members of Prakas’ family, who came out to surprise the teacher from their hiding places in the Westin ballroom kitchen. Selecting Prakas as this year’s honoree was easy for the school, Jones added.

“We chose Val because she’s just a rock of the Lower School and the most wonderful person,” said the GHS development director. “She will do anything for the school at any time without us even asking.”

After enjoying the auction from a special table — instead of volunteering for the event as usual — Prakas and her family enjoyed a two-night stay in a luxurious villa, dinner at Waterfront Bistro and a massage.

“She was so excited and so surprised, it was perfect,” Jones said.

A large display of wine enticed party-goers to try their hand at winning the “Wall of Wine” prize. A $50 donation to the school entered one in a spirited game of heads or tails.

Contestants placed their hands on their heads or their tails and were allowed to continue to the next round if their choice matched the result of a coin flip.

After several rounds, the final few contestants took the stage and the group was quickly down to three people. In another act that illustrated the generosity of auction attendees,

Wall of Wine winner Dustin Prudhomme donated the coveted prize back to the school to auction off again.

Event-goers bid on work from local artists, including paintings by Patricia Orlandini, left, during the silent auction.

A beautiful champagne diamond necklace by R&I Patton was another enticing prize. Participants purchased $25 glasses of champagne or wine, which entered them into a special raffle to take home the roughly $6,000 necklace.

Drawing out the anticipation, auctioneer Darron Meares narrowed the field down to Jones and Susan Stair. In the end Stair took home the necklace, but Jones was in for a surprise herself when Stair’s husband’s winning bid on a sister necklace that was auctioned off was given to the GHS development director.

“Susan won the necklace and I went back to my table and I knew people were bidding on the sister necklace, but I wasn’t really paying attention,” said Jones. “All of a sudden people told me that Miles [Stair] bought the necklace for me. I couldn’t believe it.”

Other major fund raisers of the night included a seven night Mediterranean cruise aboard the luxury yacht Sea Dream, a week in a farmhouse in Southern France and a 13 night trip of a lifetime across Italy.

As the audience enjoyed gourmet food and drinks between bidding on exciting packages, GHS scholarship student Afrika Anthony reminded party-goers of the night’s importance.

Following her speech, the school raked in $35,000 from straight forward donations — not for a chance to win prizes or travel packages.

“Afrika was so nervous, but I thought she did a great job,” said Jones. “When I told her how much we raised right after her speech, she finally relaxed.”

Love City residents dressed to the nines.

So many people contributed to the success of the night, not the least of which was auctioneer Meares and his wife.

“They were so great,” said Jones. “He intuitively knew when to pick up the pace and when to change course. I didn’t have to worry about losing energy in the room.”

Another key to the night’s success was the professionalism and generosity of the Westin, Jones added/

“The Westin really outdid themselves this year,” said Jones. “Their staff is amazing. When I got there at 9 a.m. they had already been setting up and they were there until probably midnight.”

“I can’t thank the Westin enough for all that they do for us,” said the GHS development director.

After the auction, attendees and organizers repaired to Cruz Bay Prime in the Westin lobby to dance the rest of the night away.