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High-Octane Auction

St. Nick auction raises $90,000; sets record for single item

This year's Operation St. Nick Radio Auction raised about $90,000 and sold the most items ever.

"Of the 30 years, it was the most fun morning I've had," said Operation St. Nick President Joe Schmitz.

The 30th annual Christmas auction was broadcast on WCSJ — 1550 AM and 103.1 FM — Sunday, Dec. 9. Operation St. Nick is a not-for-profit organization that works to help Grundy County families in need at Christmas, Easter and with back-to-school supplies.

This Christmas, they will be buying gifts for more than 70 families, with more than 160 kids.

Of the about 200 items the event had for auction and sale, 121 were sold this year. Usually they don't beat 100, said Schmitz. He credits this to having more non-sports items available this year.

"I think it's because I finally listened to all the smart women in my life," said Schmitz with a laugh. He said his wife and other female volunteers for Operation St. Nick talk him into adding more non-sport items every year and this was the first year there were more of those than sport items.

In addition to the increased sales, 30 to 40 percent of the $90,000 raised came from straight donations, memorials and pledges, Schmitz said.

The organization has yet to receive the annual anonymous $20,000 donation it usually receives in the last few minutes of the auction, but Schmitz is still hopeful it will come in before Christmas. The large donation has come every year since 2007.

"We did not get what I call the gold coin in the bucket. But in 2008, we didn't get it until right before Christmas, so I'm still hopeful. But, if we don't get it, we're still in great shape," Schmitz said.

The 1938 Bennett 810 Visible Gas Pump that was donated and completely restored by the Morris Cruise Night committee was the top money-raising item, being purchased by an anonymous bidder for $7,100.

The gas pump actually brought the auction's largest bid ever, said Schmitz. The second largest bid ever was for a Babe Ruth framed autograph photo that brought in $6,500 in 2010.

Monday morning, Schmitz said he was still selling items to people who missed the auction, as well as receiving checks for monetary donations.

"We're very thankful to everyone who got behind us and supported us," he said.

This year, Operation St. Nick tried something new by not having hourly auction items and allowing callers to call in for the big-ticket auction items at any time. In addition, they also added themed items. The theme was presidential items for the presidential year, but next year Schmitz said they're going to bring back the hourly items and skip the theme.

The changes were only moderately received, so they're going to go back to the old way, but they may add a special feature page in the auction book of special items instead, said Schmitz.

The Operation St. Nick volunteers are now finishing the shopping for the more than 70 families receiving Christmas gifts, and will be distributing the gifts next week.

"Then we take a breather until about Jan. 2, and then we start planning for next year," said Schmitz.

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