For over 20 years, this auction has served as a kickoff for a series of holiday events put on by the Foundation in order to help children on the island experience the Christmas spirit. From a Warren Sapp Buccaneers jersey to hand-carved dolphins to a guitar autographed by the band “Alabama,” the auction offered a wide variety of prizes donated by islanders and other supporters. Raffle drawings were also held, with one of the more notable prizes being a paddle board donated by Judy Haataja and Century 21 Tripower.
The money raised at this event and other held by the Foundation goes towards providing toys, clothing, and dinners for numerous families living and working on the beach, so the all the kids of the Fort Myers Beach Community can experience a happy Christmas. To this end, the Foundation works closely with the Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, who refers families to them. This year, the Foundation will be helping out 245 kids with Spirit of the Holidays, by far the largest amount to whom they have had to lend their aid.
“The auction this week was fantastic,” Fran Myers, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, said. “We had a really good crowd of around 140 people, and they were very giving. They were bidding way over on the items and we got a lot of donations from the same people.”
“You could really see the spirit of the season in the room that night,” Myers said.
Myers estimated that they raised over $20 thousand that night alone for the kids. Helping that evening was Rick Gallo, once again taking on the duties as the auctioneer, with local Shannon Smith walking the items through the crowd to encourage the bids.
The items in the auction included round trips of the Key West Express, stays at local resorts and hotels, donated gift baskets and items from local businesses, and other unique items such as the aforementioned hand-carved dolphin made by Luke and Sandy Andrews. Luke has been a noted chainsaw artist since his start in 1996, and he has sculptures all around the world. His talents have even been showcased on NBC News.
The spirit of holiday giving does not end with the closing of the auction. The Foundation will also be holding their annual pancake breakfast this weekend on December 12 at the Red Coconut Clubhouse, where they will raise more money for the kids.
A wrapping party will take place on December 20, again at the Red Coconut, where volunteers will get the presents that have been bought and donated ready for distribution to families on the Foundation’s list. They will then be dropped off door-to-door by the members of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, who help the Foundation with this effort every year.
The Fire District won’t be alone on their route, however, as Santa and his elves drop by every year to help make sure the presents get to their destinations. In fact, our publisher here at the Sun Bay Paper, Carl Conley, along with the local firemen, manned the ‘sleigh’ as it did its yuletide deliveries on and around Fort Myers Beach.
“For as long as I can remember, the FMB Fire Control Distract and Spirit of the Holidays have enjoyed a wonderful, warm, and generous partnership that has enabled hundreds of local children to have a bountiful Christmas. I know because as Santa I rode on the fire truck myself with one of the chiefs driving for six or seven years. The other firemen would follow in smaller fire trucks and pickup trucks carrying the loaded bags of toys, so when ‘Santa’ got to one of the children’s houses, he could jump down with a hearty ‘ho ho ho’ and watch the kids eyes as they got big as saucers, digging into their Christmas gifts direct from the North Pole,” said Santa.
Spirit of the Holidays is a non-profit, and all funds raised go to those in need. It can be reached through the Beach Kids Foundation, located at 3001 Estero Boulevard, Fort Myers Beach, 33931. You can contact them by phone at 239-463-7200.
By Trent Townsend