Getting Creative With Auction Items at Our Annual Rett Syndrome Fundraiser

How a private dinner party has become a coveted auction item

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by Jackie Babiarz |

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When our oldest daughter, Cammy, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome in 2011, we knew that the only thing we could control was raising money for research, care, and a cure. So we hit the ground running, literally and figuratively, turning anything we could into a fundraising opportunity.

For example, my husband, Billy, ran 150 miles across Illinois in five days to increase awareness and raise money for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. However, nothing has brought in more money or been as fun as the live auction at our family’s annual fundraiser.

From gym shoes autographed by Snoop Dogg to a golf outing for four at the iconic Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago, we are always trying to think of and obtain unique auction items. When we got the idea of auctioning off Cammy’s artwork, we realized we wanted to include other personal items as well.

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To combine our love for cooking and hosting, we auctioned off a dinner for eight at the very first fundraiser we hosted. The description included Billy and me going to the winner’s home to cook dinner, and we supplied all of the food and drink. We were so amazed that the live auction bidding reached $400 that we sold the dinner twice. Still, we never imagined how much this item would grow over the years.

Each year, we felt more pressure to deliver an unforgettable meal, as winners were paying more and more. We worked with the winners to create a perfect menu for the night. Over the years, people bought this item to host Super Bowl, birthday, and family parties, although sometimes it was simply a reason for people to get together. We would pack our car with pots, pans, knives, alcohol, and food. It was a lot of work for the two of us, but completely worth it to raise money for the foundation.

Once we built our fully accessible home in 2020, we decided to host the dinner at our house. We thought it would be easier for us, since we were familiar with the kitchen and could control the setup. The last two years, we’ve auctioned off this backyard bash for a group of 20, complete with a live band, and have raised nearly $10,000 each time. It is our favorite auction item and the most lucrative.

We have been completely flabbergasted that hosting a party could bring in so much money. We have been equally humbled and grateful that other people want Cammy to overcome Rett as much as we do.


Note: Rett Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Rett Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.

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