Gifft Hill School Celebrates “World of Opportunity” at March 13 Gala Auction

Guests will have a chance to bid on artwork like this piece by Denise Wright, above, as well as works by Aimee Trayser, Tristan Ewald and other local artists.

For almost a quarter of a century, St. John private school supporters have gathered once a year for a chance to win exotic trips, exciting water adventures and culinary delights — all while raising money to ensure the continuation of quality education on Love City.

On Saturday, March 13, the Gifft Hill School will host the 24th Annual Gala Dinner Auction themed “Open a World of Opportunity,” at the Westin Resort and Villas and the auction items are more enticing than ever.

The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. when attendees will have the chance to bid on the works of featured artists during the silent and art auction.

Featured artists this year include Livy Hitchcok, Denise Wright, Ziya Neema, Tristan Ewald, Jonathan Duran, Elaine Estern, Larry Lipsky, Toni Craft, Patricia Orlandini and Aimee Trayser.

Travel packages up for bid range from a week in Maine to a five night stay in the Mayan Riviera. Other auction items include gift certificates to local restaurants, jewelry and a full day boat rental complete with captain and crew.

Dinner starts at 7 p.m. and, playing off the “World of Opportunities” theme, organizers are changing the dining plan this year, explained GHS development director Beth Jones.

“Instead of having a sit down dinner, we’re going to have three different food stations,” said Jones. “I think a lot of people don’t see each other until this event each year and this gives them time to catch up. And we’re going with our global theme so we’re having Asian, Caribbean Continental and Mediterranean food stations.”

The live auction — which includes more travel packages, jewelry, art, electronics and services — takes place after dinner, when auctioneer Darron Mears commands the microphone to the delight of the crowd.

“He is a professional auctioneer from South Carolina who has come down for the past two years to volunteer for us,” said Jones. “He’s always a lot of fun and people really have a good time.”

The popular champagne raffle is back this year as well. Attendees can buy a $25 flute of Veuve Clicquot for the chance to win a stunning diamond and platinum beaded necklace from R&I Patton.

Gala organizers are also offering $100 golden raffle tickets for the chance to claim any trip package in the live auction.

The creative minds at GHS have devised a new fund raising activity for the 24th annual gala. A spirited game and $50 raffle tickets, will end up with one person taking home a wall of wine — up to 100 bottles to fill their own wine cellar.

For the past several years, local filmmaker Steve Simonsen has unveiled a short film about the school during the gala dinner and he has a new one ready for March 13. Past films have brought the house down and left not one dry eye in the ballroom.

“Steve Simonsen’s film has become a very anticipated part of the gala each year,” said Jones. “It’s always so much fun to see what he has created.”

All proceeds raised at the event will go to GHS’ scholarship fund, which benefits 60 percent of the school’s student body.

The annual auction is so successful annually thanks to a small, but dedicated organizing team — led this year by co-chairs Molly Murrill and Lori Barlas — and the entire St. John community, explained Jones.

“We’ve had a great response from the community and everyone has been excited to participate,” she said. “We have people who have been coming to this for 24 years which is really exciting. Lori herself has been involved with the auction for 12 or 13 years.”

“We have a very small but mighty group of volunteers who put this whole thing together,” said Jones. “Also, on the night of the event we have students, alumni and community members who come and volunteer in various capacities. I feel this is a true community event.”

All auction items can be previewed and bid on at Tickets for the dinner auction are $125 and are available through GHS. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Jones at 776-1730.