GHS Marks Silver Anniversary of Annual Auction; Full Night of Fun Is Planned for March 12

“Peace at Dusk” by Bob Schlesinger, featured photographer at GHS’ 25th Annual Auction.

Gifft Hill School officials are gearing up to celebrate a milestone at their annual auction on Saturday, March 12, at the Westin Resort and Villas.

The night marks the silver anniversary of the annual auction to support the island school, which began as the Pine Peace School 33 years ago. That small school grew into today’s kindergarten through 12th grade GHS, following a merger with the Coral Bay School in 2004.

The March 12 auction will honor the school’s founding members while raising money for the GHS scholarship fund, upon which 60 percent of the student body relies, according to Molly Murrill, GHS’ development director assistant.

“First and foremost we are honoring the founding families of Pine Peace School which was started 33 years ago,” said Murrill. “Janet and Andy Rutnik, Donald and Debbie Schnell, Dorothy and Peter Muilenburg and Viktor and Anna Johansson were the families which started it all.”

The theme of the 25th annual auction, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails and a silent auction, is “Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Future.” The event will keep guests entertained throughout the night with a live auction and a few exciting games.

The silent auction will give guests a chance to bid on a bevy of items, from original paintings to handcrafted birdhouses. Featured artists this year include John Dickson, Les Anderson, Janet Rutnik, Bernice Shaller and Lisa Etre among others.

The night’s featured photographer is Bob Schlessinger of Tropical Focus, who has prepared a wide range of images highlighting his diverse talent behind the lens.

Darron and Hope Mares, from Mares Auction Group, will be back again this year leading the live auction which includes a number of enticing travel packages, jewelry and more. The night will also feature a screening of Steve Simonsen’s video about GHS, which the renowned local photographer unveils each year at the event.

“Steve’s video is also a highlight of the night,” said Murrill. “It really hits home the point of why we are raising money for the school.”

Last year’s auction raised $140,000 and GHS officials are hoping to top that on March 12. To reach their goal, school officials have games and raffles planned for the evening.

Tickets for the auction are $125 each and tables of 10 are available for $1,000. GHS officials are urging guests to pre-register with their credit cards and contact information to avoid long lines at the entrance, Murrill added.

“Guests who pre-register their tables will enjoy the discounted table price of $900,” Murrill said. “It’s just a little incentive to get people to pre-register so we don’t have those lines piling up when guests arrive.”

Last year’s popular game the “Wall of Wine” is back again. GHS secures donations of bottles of wine — last year the “wall” featured 100 bottles — and then plays a “last man standing” type of game.

“Guests get into the game by purchasing $50 chances — last year they were the flashing lights — and play a heads or tails game which whittles down the audience little by little until there are four or five people left,” said Murrill. “Then the games continues until there is only one person left standing, and that person wins the ‘wall.’”

The school made a lot of money on last year’s Wall of Wine because the winner, Dustin Prudhomme, turned around and donated the wine right back to the school, Murrill added.

“Ultimately we were able to auction the wine off in a live auction and raised a lot of money for the school,” she said.

Residents are encouraged to donate bottles of wine for the game. Starfish Wine and Gourmet will donate 10 percent of the purchase price of wines for the GHS auction right to the school’s scholarship fund, Murrill added.

Another game at the auction will allow guests the chance to take home a stunning diamond and silver necklace from R&I Patton. Guests can purchase $25 glasses of champagne, fine wine or specialty cocktail in order to get a raffle number, and have a chance to win the necklace.

The popular golden ticket from last year is back again as well, Murrill added.

“Golden tickets are $100 each and when you purchase a ticket you are given a list of the travel packages which are going to be auctioned off,” said the GHS development director assistant. “Last year we had about 15 items on the list and the golden ticket winner is able to choose which travel package they want. Then we don’t auction that item off and the winner gets it.”

“The packages can be valued at up to $5,000,” said Murrill. “Last year Jonathan Doran won and he chose the Beaver Creek trip so we didn’t auction that off.”

After the festivities at the Westin wrap up, GHS officials are taking the fun over to La Plancha del Mar in Mongoose Junction, for an after party and a chance to raise even more money for GHS.

“We’re having the after party this year at La Plancha del Mar; we’ll have a DJ, a few more raffle prizes and we’ll dance the night away,” said Murrill. “We’re sort of toting this as a party and you don’t have to be an auction guest to attend. Auction guests will have free entrance, and we’re asking the public to make a donation in order to join the party.”

The night would not be possible without the generosity of the Westin Resort, which is the event’s biggest sponsor, Murrill explained.

“Westin is our biggest supporter with the location, the food and the staff,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”

The auction is GHS’ main fundraising event of the year and comes together thanks to a team of hardworking parent volunteers. GHS is still accepting donations for live and silent auctions. Call the school at 776-1730 to pre-register, purchase golden tickets and to donate.