SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


10th Annual St. Patrick's Day Auction raises over $55,000
By Marie L. Monyak


March 15, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - The Luck 'o the Irish was with the First City Council on Cancer (FCCC) this last Saturday when they raised over $55,000 at their 10th Annual St. Patrick's Day Auction held at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

Anyone who didn't know that St. Patrick's Day is on the 17th would have thought it was this past Saturday from the all the shamrocks, leprechauns and wearing o' the green that embellished the Civic Center.

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Master Auctioneer Jim Wingren. Rebecca Bates and Jen Walton doing the Vana Thing.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Countless volunteers sold raffle tickets, set up and decorated the Civic Center, cataloged the numerous items donated for auction, cooked and baked the tasty treats and hors d'oeuvres, assisted with the auction, and some even did the Vana thing*.

Each and every volunteer contributed to the success as did the generous community that turned out in support to spend freely in the knowledge that they were helping one of the most philanthropic organizations in Ketchikan.

At 5:00 P.M. Saturday evening, guests began arriving to view the wonderful items donated for the auction and decide which treasures they would bid on. Kevin Gould and the Clove Pass Band entertained the gathering with Irish tunes until the auction began.

In true Ketchikan fashion, the pre-auction turned into a social hour with friends and neighbors visiting and chatting with each other while sipping their drinks and sampling the endless succession of platters laden with tempting appetizers and desserts.

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Leprechauns Karley Lesko and Laura Brandt-Erichsen selling raffle tickets.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

With handlebar moustache waxed and perfectly curled, Ketchikan's best known Master Auctioneer Jim Wingren in response to the question, how did you get started as an auctioneer said, "I always wanted to be an auctioneer and when Gaffney's, the family business closed down in 1992, I went to Kansas City, to the largest auctioneer school in the country and I've been auctioneering for fundraisers ever since."

As Wingren was preparing for his duties, Karley Lesko and Laura Brandt-Erichsen, dressed as eccentric leprechauns wandered through the crowd selling $10.00 raffle tickets for a chance to win a cruise for two with airfare, a wine country trip for two with airfare or a Yamaha 9.9 horsepower trolling motor.

Other volunteers were busy selling various raffle tickets for other prizes ranging from a stainless 12 gauge shotgun to quilts and jewelry. All the while, President of the FCCC and auction organizer Linda Gilson, aka "Auction Mama," was busy keeping things running smoothly.

Sharon and Dick Monrean wearing the St. Paddy's Day green.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Lucky bidders won items like framed floatplane photographs by Chip Porter for $400 or a screening colonoscopy for $500. Four thousand gallons of water with a Patagonia vest and a crocheted scarf was won for a bid of only $290. A one year membership to Curves with a T-shirt went for a mere $475.

One item not listed in the auction catalog was a 12 inch sculptured doll in the likeness of FCCC President Linda Gilson, made by Sharon Monrean as a tribute to Gilson for her many years of organizing the auction. As the bidding began, Gilson's husband Johnny jumped in as friends outbid him good naturedly until he finally won the bidding at $550.

A set of limited edition Chinese plates went to Bob Vance for $185. When asked why he was attending the auction, Vance stated, "I went through a bout with cancerI went from being a cancer patient to cancer survivor. My wife Sara and I called Gilson and asked to help. That's my wife Sara on stage; she's doing the Vana thing. Today is our 6th Anniversary so I bought the china for her after she expressed an interest in them."

There were plenty of reminders of the underlying reason for the auction and the benefits that would be reaped by the proceeds of the night. Many of the guests present were cancer survivors or are currently undergoing treatment for the devastating, yet oftentimes curable disease.

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Linda Gilson, "Auction Mama," with her likeness in clay.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

During the evening, Kay Sims and Terry Wanzer, partners in the Best Western Landing were publicly thanked for donating the rental cost of the Civic Center every year since the fundraiser outgrew the Chevrolet dealership where it was held for many years.

When Sims was asked why she was such a strong supporter of the FCCC she replied, "My mother and I are both cancer survivors so I have a personal interest. I think this is the greatest fundraiser in Ketchikan."

Half way through the evening the Leprechaun Shoes came up for bid. By tradition, these green, curly toed slippers affixed to a Lucite plaque are awarded to the highest bidding business in town. The winner then has its business name engraved on the plaque and receives the honor of displaying the Leprechaun Shoes until the following year.

Wanzer came to everyone's attention again as he outbid the business community for the Leprechaun Shoes with the high bid of $1100 on behalf of the Landing Hotel. Asking Wanzer why he bid on the plaque, he responded, "Why else, my partner (Kay Sims) had cancer and survived, that's a good enough reason for me."

As the auction continued, more lucky bidders won amazing prizes such as tickets for two to the Mariners vs. Yankees game at Safeco Field for $525. A beautiful hand-crocheted tablecloth was awarded for a bid of $500 and a vasectomy was acquired for just $300.

For many years the novelty auction item was the vasectomy donated by Dr. Robert Crochelt but this year it was replaced by an item seen on television every year at Christmastime. Anyone familiar with the movie Christmas Story instantly recognized the gaudy lamp made from the booted leg of a mannequin complete with fringed shade.

Eileen Small was the lucky bidder for the leg lamp at $350. "I bought it for my daughter Starr to put in her room because she's the "Queen of Tacky." At Christmas I'll probably move it to the front room window!" Small added, "The FCCC has done wonderful things for my patients, they've always come through for them, I feel like I owe them [FCCC] my support."

Rebecca Bates doing the Vana thing with this year's novelty auction item; a leg lamp.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Another member of the community came to the attention of the guests during the evening. Single-handedly selling 1220 of the $10 raffle tickets, Judge Henry Keene Jr. is a well known, generous supporter of the FCCC. One of two, large framed prints donated by Keene fetched a whopping $2300!

When the time came for the raffle drawing, guests waited anxiously in hopes of hearing their name called out. Who wouldn't want a trip for two off the Rock in the middle of winter? The tickets were called in order as they were awarded as winner's choice.

And the winner isMarna Cessnum who selected the cruise for two with airfare. The second ticket selected belonged to Pat Branco who chose the wine country trip for two with airfare and the last ticket drawn awarded Marcello Nacionales (better known as Chef Bong from the Landing) with the Yamaha 9.9 hp trolling motor.

While nibbling on the seemingly endless array of food and enjoying good company, guests continued bidding until all the generously donated items had been won. As everyone prepared to leave, the feeling in the room was one of satisfaction at having accomplished something worthwhile and meaningful.

Now that the fun and excitement of the auction is over, the donations are counted and the volunteers are taking a well earned rest its time to make sure the community knows who the First City Council on Cancer is and what services they provide.

The FCCC is a local non-profit, volunteer organization that assists individuals and families in Ketchikan and its environs by ensuring access to exams and counseling for medically indigent and under-insured patients.

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Kathie Glover and Jackie Williams wearing the green and selling raffle tickets.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

They assist with educating the public and professionals about cancer prevention and therapy and they also facilitate local support groups. The FCCC, along with several other organizations, help to fund the free lung cancer screening program for people over 50 with a significant history of smoking.

First City Council on Cancer is NOT affiliated with the American Cancer Society, insuring that all funds raised stay right here in Ketchikan. Donations are collected year-round to celebrate cancer survivors and also in memory of cancer victims.

The St. Patrick's Day Auction is the only fundraiser because of the largesse of the community. The FCCC has returned over $500,000 to the community in the past 10 years.

*Vana thing: (do the Vana thing): adj. phrase used to describe showcase models from television game shows. The phrase is derived from Vana White's name, the popular showcase model on Wheel of Fortune.

On the Web:

To donate, seek assistance or learn more about the First City Council on Cancer:


 Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer
living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.
Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]
jpg Marie L. Monyak

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