While offers were accepted online, it didn’t stop bidders from attending the 12th annual Hope from Helen Surf Silent Auction on Friday night at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach. Organizers believe the auction fundraiser drew an estimated 1,000 attendees over the course of the evening, the largest gathering in the event’s history.
“As someone who creates, if you’re a creator, this is what you aspire to give to,” said Sean Ruttkay, the 2017 North Carolina Azalea Festival’s featured artist who donated three large-scale water-themed pieces to this year’s occasion. “This is the biggest event of the year.”
A longtime returning donor, Jim Mincher, owner of Two Wheeler Dealer, gifted a pink beach cruiser that was auctioned alongside several specialty surfboards, hand-crafted creations and hundreds of additional items donated by local artists and businesses.
Event director Kelly Barnes said the annual event is the Wrightsville Beach “party of the year.”
“Everyone comes not only because they know they’re doing a good deed, but because they get to see everyone they love,” Barnes said.
With more than 40 volunteers, Barnes’ role in gathering over 250 auction items is “instrumental” in the event’s yearly success, said event founder Tony Butler.
“It takes that many people to make it run as seamless as it does,” Butler said.
Since the event’s inception in 2005, Butler has relied on friends, family and community members like Barnes, Ruttkay and Mincher to help build the cause into what it has evolved into today.
“We all came together to help out because the surfing community is like a family, so that’s what we do,” Barnes said. “Hope from Helen started off helping Helen, and Helen wanted to continue to help everyone else. We do it in her memory for her wish.”
Initially named Hope for Helen, Butler started the event to raise funds for his mother who had been diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer with no health insurance.
After she died, Butler and the local surfing community carried on the tradition of honoring her life through the event that now contributes to more than 40 charities.
Friday was the event’s third year utilizing fundraising software, BidPal. Attendees placed bids through their mobile phones and were notified as soon as they were outbid.
With more than $43,000 raised in three hours, event organizers believed this software may have aided in encouraging participation.
After months of preparation, Butler said he was relieved to witness such an outpouring of support from his local community.
“You never know if you do enough and so to see it really come up like this, it’s a humbling and really good feeling,” Butler said. “This is probably my favorite year.”