Image Credit: Heidi Baumgartner

Auction Reveals Hearts of Gold for Adventist Education

Mike Merrill, auctioneer, was well underway in facilitating the live auction at Auburn Adventist Academy’s Hearts of Gold benefit dinner.

He paused the live bidding of specific items for a special auction feature called “Fund-A-Need.”

This is an auction item where people can donate a set dollar amount in designated increments to help fund student scholarships.

Merrill started the top increment at $15,000, promising there would be a price point for everyone. No one responded to this amount, so he moved to $10,000. An enthusiastic donor raised her bid card and stood up in support.

The large donation sent a ripple across the audience seated at two dozen blue-and-gold decorated dinner tables.

Merrill called out the next several donation increments — $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250 — with several responses.

He stopped midway through to make an announcement to the audience about a $20,000 matching fund challenge for Fund-A-Need. He turned to the bid spotter to ask, “So, how close are we to $20,000?”

The bid spotter deadpanned, “Not even close.”

The audience groaned in disbelief. The excitement had been so high. Surely there was $20,000.

“Well, how close?” Merrill questioned.

“We’ve surpassed $40,000, and this doesn’t even include the matching funds,” the bid spotter responded.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you just raised $60,000 for student scholarships in a matter of minutes!” Merrill announced.

The audience’s sigh of relief melted into joyous applause.

The whole Hearts of Gold evening — between two silent auctions, a live auction, a dessert auction and the Fund-A-Need donations — raised significant funds for students to attend AAA financially. Current AAA students, including a Ukrainian refugee student and a student with limited funds from home, shared how much they appreciated the financial support they receive from donors.

“A majority of our students rely on some level of student aid,” said Kellie Nunley, AAA director of development. "Every item purchased, every paddle raised, every dollar donated, every story told, makes a tangible difference in the lives of current and future students at AAA.”

Hearts of Gold also provided a reunion — a gathering of AAA supporters including former and retired AAA colleagues who returned for this fundraising event to contribute their time, talent and memories.

Kay Sanborn, retired dean, for example, donated a 90-by-90-inch crossword-puzzle-style quilt that she had designed, pieced and sewed with 19 yards of fabric. The puzzle pieces spelled out different memories and places associated with AAA. The bid winner chose to give the custom quilt back to the school to display on campus.

Peter Fackenthall, AAA principal, invited 70 students – including 11 Ukrainian refugee students – to encircle the audience during the auction.

“These students are why you are here,” Fackenthall said. “Our Ukrainian refugee students have found a safe haven at AAA, but this is a place where all of our students can take refuge from the world, and be immersed in Jesus Christ.”

Featured in: May/June 2023