A fund-raising gala not soon to be forgotten was held Saturday night at the Hood River Sports Club. It was an evening of eating and dancing, good-natured bidding battles and socializing with friends. And when it was all said and done, the goal behind the gala had been surpassed many times over.
Saturday’s event culminated a two-day silent auction to raise money for Noah Smith, the 1999 graduate of Hood River Valley High School who was severely injured in a December 2002 car accident. Organizers had hoped to raise several thousand dollars to help Noah and his family with medical and rehabilitation expenses. The auction, which included more than 250 individual items donated by businesses in Hood River and around the Mid-Columbia, raised more than $28,000, according to organizer Kathy Eastman.
An additional $3,000 was raised from a four-day tennis tournament and a racquetball tournament held at the club.
“It was so much more than we ever dreamed,” Eastman said. “My life will never be the same — not only because of the Smith family but also because of the people who came out.”
A committee of about half a dozen people, including Eastman, spent several weeks soliciting items for the auction from local businesses. As the event drew closer, the list of items — and people’s generosity — grew, said Eastman.
“The people in the least position to give were the quickest to give,” she said. “Every time we turned around someone offered something else.” Eastman said businesses and individuals across the river — from Stevenson to Lyle, Wash. — were equally eager to help as those in Hood River. Even table cloths for the evening were donated from a business in The Dalles.
“It shows it is a whole Gorge effort,” Eastman said. A smorgasbord of food for the gala was prepared by 37 volunteers.
Eastman said bidding on many of the silent auction items started higher than the requested minimum.
“A lot of people got wonderful value for what they (bought), but they also knew that the money was going to such an important cause,” Eastman said.
Marilyn Smith, Noah’s mother, said she and her family were “overwhelmed” by the “Herculean efforts” of the volunteers who organized the tournaments and auction, the generous donations from individuals and businesses and the “incredible support” of all the participants.
“The benevolence of the Hood River community helps provide the strength and resources we need to face the future with hope and optimism,” Marilyn said. “We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved.”
Eastman said the event was “the most incredible thing to show how to keep a community small and intimate.”
“I am just convinced that Hood River is so unique,” she said. “This could never have taken place in a larger city.”