Friends supporters can bid on a weekend getaway to the W Vieques, above.
What could be a better way to spend the holidays than relaxing at the expansive pool at the W in Vieques, while knowing the trip helped Friends of V.I. National Park offer educational opportunities to Virgin Islands children?
If that sounds ideal, then don’t miss Friends of V.I. National Park’s second annual online auction, set to kick off at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 19, and wrap up on Sunday, December 5.
The group switched its annual auction from a live format to an online event for the first time last year as a way to expand their audience, explained Friends’ development director Heather Ruhsam.
Traditionally, Friends hosted a live auction at its annual gala, which usually included around 200 guests. By switching to an online forum, the group was able to reach an audience of thousands, according to Ruhsam.
“Last year we took the auction online and it was a great decision,” said Ruhsam. “It took our audience from around 200 people who we had at the gala to about 2,000 individual members and non-members across the country.”
The group’s first effort netted around $15,000 and this year officials hope to haul in between $20,000 and $25,000 to support Friends of VINP’s programs, according to Ruhsam.
In order to raise even more funds through the auction this year, Ruhsam pushed up the date of the auction and added even more exciting packages for bidders.
“We moved the date of the auction up a bit this year because we wanted to time it over Thanksgiving for a few reasons,” said Friends’ development director. “We wanted people to be able to plan weekend getaways for the holidays or boat trips for their stay. We also thought people could look at the items all together.”
“Also if someone had something in mind to give for a holiday gift, we have time to get it out before the holiday,” said Ruhsam. “On December 6, we’ll process payments and send things out.”
To amp up the proceeds for Friends, the auction will also offer more items for bidders this year, Ruhsam added.
“We’ve expanded it a bit in terms of the number of items and the quality of items,” she said about the auction items and packages. “We have some new items and some really exciting packages.”
Friends supporters can bid on everything from commissioned paintings from local artists Livy Hitchcock and Elaine Estern, to accommodations at some of the most luxurious villas, dinners at popular restaurants and stunning jewelry from local gold and silversmiths R&I Patton.
Also new this year, Friends of VINP has teamed up with Friends of the Smoky, to offer an exciting week in the breathtaking southeast U.S. National Park, Ruhsam explained.
“We did an auction swap with Friends of the Smoky and we have a four-night package for four people in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Ruhsam. “The week includes accommodations, dinners, guided hikes, trail maps, everything. In return, they will be getting a week in St. John which Friends of the Smoky will be auctioning off.”
The auction also includes those enticing weekend stays at the W in Vieques, and other locations not too far from St. John, ideal for a quick get-away. And Friends is accepting donations of auction items right up through December 5, so bidders are encouraged to check the site often for new items.
In total, Ruhsam hopes to offer 40 items during the auction. After registering, supporters can bid on their favorite items and even sign up for alerts so they can be informed when they need to up their ante.
Proceeds from the auction will go to supporting Friends many invaluable programs in V.I. National Park. This year, the non-profit has committed to more than $600,000 in programs and projects, according to Ruhsam.
“The funds go to support natural and cultural resource preservation, protection and education,” said the development director. “Some of our big programs this year are the archaeology program and we’re working on an accessible trail assessment. The park has requested that we help them to fund a full accessible trail guide so people will know the difficulty of different trails.”
Even though Friends’ annual gala won’t offer a live auction, the night will be full of fine food by St. John Catering, great live music by Paradise People and stunning vistas. This year the gala will be on Saturday night, February 5, 2011, at Cheryl and Dave McDaniel’s Butterfly Beach in Estate Fish Bay.
“Cheryl and Dave McDaniel are just wonderful people and they’re hosting the gala at their beautiful new home in Fish Bay,” said Ruhsam. “They’re from New Jersey and will be spending part of the year down here. They’re really excited about hosting the event, being a part of the community and inviting people into their home.”
The McDaniels are also interested in invigorating the local butterfly population by reintroducing native plants on their Fish Bay property sure to make Butterfly Beach really earn its name, Ruhsam added.
Invitations to the Friends’ annual gala should be mailed out in December and raffle tickets, for the chance to win more than 30 great prizes, will be available then as well.
Get a sneak peek of the items in Friends’ online gala at www.friendsofvinp.org or www.biddingforgood.com/friendsofvinp, and be sure to register and start bidding on November 19.
For more information or to donate auction items call Ruhsam at 779-4940.