Laura Grana saw the 3-foot-tall concrete bulldog and didn’t know quite what to think.
Grana, who was in charge of the first Columbus North All-Star Dinner Auction, was collecting donations for the auction portion of the event, so she wasn’t about to turn down anyone’s generous offering.
But this thing was heavy.
“It was something that you could put into your yard, and it had been painted,” Grana said.
If you go
WHAT: Columbus North High School All-Star Dinner Auction
WHEN: March 8
TIME: 6 to 10 p.m. (buffet dinner at 7 p.m.)
WHERE: Simmons Winery, 8111 E. County Road 450N, Columbus
TO DONATE AUCTION ITEMS: Call 812-552-6097
TICKETS: $30, available at the Columbus North High School athletics office
Concrete turned into gold on auction night. The bulldog fetched a couple of hundred dollars.
North athletes are hoping for similar success on March 8 when the second Columbus North All-Star Dinner Auction is staged at Simmons Winery.
To say that the inaugural benefit was a learning experience was an understatement.
“We had never done it before,” Grana said. “It can all be a little overwhelming when you are a nonprofit.”
At a time when high school athletics programs are under more financial pressure to stay afloat, or to keep up with the Joneses, North Athletics Director Jeff Hester was considering ways to raise money. He had attended a silent/live auction in Bloomington and suggested such an event to his boosters group.
“We said, ‘Maybe,’” Grana said. “Then we thought, ‘What do we have to lose?’”
Once the boosters started to move forward, it was obvious that there could be a lot to lose if the event fell flat.
“We had to decide how big to go,” Grana said. “We had to find a place, hire a caterer and a bartender, and we had to figure out how we could make it affordable for those coming.”
Grana had worked with Simmons Winery in the past in putting together ice skating fundraisers, so she went back to Brena and Dave Simmons, who were glad to help.
“They always worked well with us in the past,” Grana said. “They almost let us have the facility.”
Due to the generosity of the Simmons, the $30 admission ticket for the event pays for the venue, the food and the bartenders.
“Everything we do for the silent and live auction is profit,” Grana said. “It all goes back to the sports teams.”
About 140 people attended last year’s auction, and the North athletic program netted $24,000, according to Hester.
“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” Hester said.
Part of the charm of the event is that those attending never know what will be up for auction.
“It’s unique,” Hester said. “It’s an event that gets people together who have something in common. They all support Bull Dog athletics. And we try to have some unique items to be auctioned. We get such a wide variety of people who give.
“Maybe they have a recreational home that they can’t use for a week, or maybe it is a couple of hours use of a dump truck. Our booster club has a pretty wide net, and it is outside-the-box thinking. People give where their heart is, so you never know what you are going to get. We’ve come a long ways from the days of selling candy bars.”
Nancy and Jim Mahoney have catered fish frys around town for a number of years, and their Alaska whitefish sandwiches are famous around North. They donated, both last year and this year, a catered event for 20 people.
“My husband (Jim) graduated in 1957, the first class out of North,” Nancy said. “We have five children who graduated from North. We have 15 grandchildren, and three of them go to North now. We enjoy North’s sports, and we enjoy the kids.”
Snappy’s donates a pizza for a year, and those who go to this year’s auction will be bidding on a Bull Dogs quilt.
Each North team is asked to put together a basket to be auctioned.
“A team might donate time to do yard work,” Grana said. “Or it could include golfing with (football coach) Tim Bless. No two baskets are the same.”
The event also is just plain fun.
“We wanted to keep it low key, casual dress,” Grana said. “It is very much a social gathering.”
Hester said he hopes the event becomes an annual one, but Grana isn’t sure.
“That’s a really good question,” she said. “It’s one that I think about a lot. All the (fundraising) things I’ve done, it gets old or people get worn out after a while. It might get to the point where you have to take a break.
“I know local businesses get hit up by a lot of people. We have to find a balance. And I don’t think that five or 10 years ago that the boosters were about fundraising. Our focus has changed a little. We are looking for more ways to make money.”