St. Charles Hospice Christmas Auction nets more than $90,000 and sees record attendance for both the open house and the dinner and auction

JASON CHANEY - The St. Charles Hospice Auction open house, held Friday evening, drew a record crowd as people were able to visit the indoor arena free of charge and view the displays.

The St. Charles Hospice Christmas Auction raised more than $90,000 as a record number of people attended the annual event Saturday evening.

The Hospice Christmas Auction was once again held at the Crook County Fairgrounds Indoor Arena. The event kicked off with an open house Friday evening, and the dinner and auction followed Saturday night.

The event, now in its 27th year, has become a high-dollar fundraiser for St. Charles Hospice, drawing large crowds who are not shy about bidding up to four figures on specially decorated Christmas trees and elaborate quilts.

This year was no exception.

Event Coordinator Ann Fisher noted that donations are still coming in and final numbers are not yet tallied, but the top bid for a tree was $6,700 for the Winter Wonderland Escape. Donated by Rosendin Electric, the tree display was described as a whimsical department store window display, designed to celebrate the restlessness all Central Oregonians feel when winter seems to last forever, causing thoughts to wander from winter wonderland to beach or bust.

The top-selling quilt, Bear Hunt, went for $1,900. The quilt was donated by sisters Chris Covault and Marney Close and was quilted by Laura Simmons.

Fisher said the 2018 Winter Wonderland-themed event put a greater focus on the open house, held on Friday and free to attend, in hopes of drawing more attention and visitors this year. Fisher added that the change was particularly focused on increasing youth awareness and involvement.

"I think it is important to get youth involved in volunteering and things like that at a young age," she said.

The open house offered visitors a complete preview of what greets dinner and auction ticketholders on Saturday evening.

"The open house was a huge success this year," Fisher gushed. "We had the best turnout ever."

While people did not bid on the displays at the Friday evening event, they were invited to submit a People's Choice vote on their favorite tree and quilt displays. About 130 people cast votes. The winning tree was Nightmare Before Christmas, which was donated by Ristine Williams in memory of her son, Cory. The display was designed as a toddler's bedroom, complete with bed, nightstand, DVD player and big screen TV. It was Cory's favorite movie during his childhood.

The People's Choice winner for best quilt was Stained Glass Garden, which was donated by the Estate of Barbara Nara, a lifetime volunteer in the community and for hospice.

"We also did a tribute that night to Dr. Michael Knower, a longtime Crook County hospice physician and advocate for rural hospice," Fisher said. "He is retiring at the end of this year."

The $90,000 total is lower than the past couple years when the Hospice Christmas Auction raised more than $100,000. However, the dip was not due to a waning interest in attending the event.

"We did feed over 700 people, so our attendance is up," she said.

And though the total fundraising numbers declined from last year, Fisher remained encouraged and optimistic about the outcome and the generosity of those in attendance. After all, topping $90,000 is still a tremendous small-town fundraiser.

"Our community is absolutely amazing, the way they give so generously for the hospice organization," she said. "We are truly blessed."

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