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This year's Cleveland High School's successful fundraising auction had a 'camping' theme

DAVID F. ASHTON - Matt Cole and auction co-organizer and spouse Kristin greeted guests in the entryway of Southeasts Melody Ballroom.  Some fundraising auctions strive for elegance; this year, the Cleveland High School (CHS) PTA's organizers decided to go "camp" – and have a more-than-casual party at Southeast's Melody Ballroom, on Saturday evening, March 17. They called it "Camp Cleveland".

"Our guests say they're enjoying the 'camp out' theme this year," smiled co-organizer Kristin Cole. "But, it's all about raising money to provide quality education at Cleveland High School, and bring the community together in support of our school."

"Our PTA supplements supplies and programs; and also we're raising money for the CHS Foundation too, which helps fund instructor positions," her colleague Jill Stevens remarked. "Fortunately, we have quite a bit of help with this; there are many volunteers who secured donations, and who are helping this evening, so we really appreciate our volunteers, they're fabulous!"

"I enjoy this wonderful group of volunteers coming together for a common goal, in executing such a delightful event," Cole agreed.

And this year, they added a "camp cookie name tag" drawing – akin to winning a "golden ticket". "Those who purchased a 'camp name' badge, if their name is drawn before the live auction starts, they could win a stay in a Paris apartment, in a beachfront home, or have a private dinner party catered for them," Cole told THE BEE.

Butlers at the hall walked about the silent auction area, serving appetizers of deviled eggs, Caprese Skewers, and weenie wraps with mustard, while about 300 participants browsed the many auction items on display.

CHS Principal Ayesha Freeman, dressed in branded Warriors garb, showed off the "camp name" she'd selected: "Solstice" – and smiled as she looked at the activity around her. "Schools are places of community; and tonight is really special, because it allows parents and families involved with the school along with community members to come together with students and teachers.

"And, thank goodness they're raising the money; with the new staffing formula at CHS, we're seeing a bit of reduction amongst our staff next year," Freeman revealed. "Thanks to fundraising, we're still able to expand our media program, our graphic design program, expand our arts program, and provide other educational opportunities to help our students."

In keeping with the camp theme, the auction banquet was served family-style, with biscuits, coleslaw, corn on the cob, German potato salad, barbecued chicken, and vegan polenta lasagna. After supper, tables which did not win an item in the "dessert dash", were treated to plates of graham crackers with melted marshmallows and chocolate s'mores.

In total, about $130,000 was raised – both for the Foundation and for the PTA.

Co-organizer Stevens confided why she is willing to take on such responsibility: "I have two children going to school at CHS, and helping with this auction allows me to give back,"

Stevens thought for a moment and added, "I procure donations for the auction in the same neighborhoods in which I've done that for years, and it's heartening that these small businesses are so willing and ready to donate to help our children. That's a good feeling."

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