Penny Auction at Christa McAuliffe

March 13, 2012 Heather Chin
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School budget cuts have made fundraising efforts the norm at schools across the city and country, with many having signature events that bring in a reliable haul every year while also serving as a community social event. At I.S. 187 Christa McAuliffe, that event is the Penny Auction.

This year, the 18th Annual Penny Auction – which doubled as an art exhibit for student works created for International Women’s Day – drew over 300 people to bid on two rooms full of prizes – grouped according to worth as Super, Grand and Supreme – such as framed photographs and paintings, Broadway show tickets, iPads, kitchen gadgets, electronics, test prep exam courses, courtside seat tickets to Yankees and New Jersey Nets games, and themed gift baskets stuffed with goodies donated by parents, local businesses and corporate donors.

“There is no strategy,” said moms, dads, aunts and neighbors who wove between tables dropping raffle tickets into blue bags scotch-taped next to their relevant basket prize. “You just go for what you like.”

For many people, the prize they most liked was the Supreme kahuna of prizes – a trip to Disney World.

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“I’ve been here once before; it’s so great,” said Bensonhurst mom Heather Fiorica. “Four years ago, I won tickets to see ‘Jersey Boys’ and a coffeemaker. My strategy is to sit down and look over the book [of prizes] first.”

Getting all of those prizes was the work of the entire school community, with parents getting donations from well-connected friends and favorite businesses, or buying and making baskets themselves. Dad Richard LaRosa even sent out over 300 donation requests to major corporations, netting between 45 to 50 “Supremes” such as the Disney trip.

At $25 per attendee for entry, food, and drink, plus $30 per envelope of raffle tickets, the event pulls thousands of dollars a year for the middle school’s array of after-school programs and activities, as well as parent workshops.

According to I.S. 187 Principal Justin Berman, the annual auction “is the critical fundraiser for these efforts [and] the chance to involve and cater to the community for one evening is a wonderful opportunity to bring us all together to support our kids. I’m so proud of all the parent’s dedication.”

“We have really sweet, nice kids and we’re really lucky that they would help out at school on a Friday night,” said PTA President Yolanda Cartusciello, who added that many of the kids were also excited to see the cafeteria transform into an art gallery of sorts for their drawings, paintings and repurposed/repainted women’s shoes – all paying homage to famous women in history.

“The artwork, the kids have been working on it since January,” said Assistant Principal William Nicoll. “They picked an artist and tried to replicate her artwork. Then they started bringing in shoes and each picked a woman [to honor]. They also did dioramas and all of the drawings on the walls.”

The artist chosen by the kids was Elsha Bohnert, known for her “found” and “recycled” art – thus the work boot being upcycled to include Braille on the inside (for Helen Keller), the practical boot being painted to resemble a wood cabin on the prairie (for Laura Ingalls), and the dressy high heel being be painted red and covered in magazine cutouts of chocolate and grapes and Desi Arnaz (for Lucille Ball).

For mom Linda LaSpina, whose three kids are either in or graduated from I.S. 187, the event is a fun tradition that she and her grammar school friends – who now all have school-aged children – go to every year. “I’ve been coming for six years here and it gets better every year,” she said.

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