I wanted to wait until I had some photographs to share before I wrote about the Camp Goodtimes Wine Auction on Saturday night but I just can't. The evening was too amazing. The bottom line is that more than $150,000 was raised to go towards enriching the lives of pediatric oncology patients and their families in the state of Washington and Alaska. Camp Goodtimes strives to give back a small portion of the childhood that cancer takes away. Camp is a compassion building machine for the kids, for the staff and for any and everyone that comes into contact with the experience. The machine needs power, needs oil and needs a starter motor. That is provided by community support. If it wasn't for the wine auction, there wouldn't have been a second week of camp these past two summers. That means that 220 kids would not have been given the opportunity to attend camp. Since they were able to have that experience, friendships were made and amazing moments happened and those kids lives were permanently affected for the better.
Saturday night, the event was spectacular. Guests and volunteers dressed to the nines, and wonderful silent and live auction items to bid on. The entire evening we had a slideshow going on a loop of my photographs of the kids from summer. One highlight of the night was when the owners of Argosy Cruises, Kevin and Cary Clark, were given a special recognition award for their 20 years of dedication to the children of Camp Goodtimes. In those 20 years they have donated boats for summer cruises, Christmas cruises and even on occasion for memorial services for campers who had passed away; a total of 44 times! 44 cruises with no conditions. The only thing they were concerned with was that the kids be able to have a fun and memorable time out on Puget Sound. Watching the Clark's get a standing ovation and seeing the tears rolling down their faces was in my opionion, and I do have a 30 year affiliation with the company, Argosy's proudest moment. They were being recognized for their generosity, compassion and for making a difference in thousands of kids lives over two decades.
The highlight of highlights was provided by my courageous friend Karen Gerstenberger. She bravely stepped to the podium and told the most personal of stories to those in attendance, that of her daughter Katie's battle with cancer and her experience at Camp Goodtimes. Katie passed away only a month and a half after attending camp in 2007. With photographs of Katie rolling on the display screens, Karen slowly and deliberately spoke from her heart. The ambient noise in the room instantly stopped and the audience was glued to Karen and hanging on her every word. She told everyone she was going to be reading her remarks because she thought that was the only way that she could get through her speech but still she glanced up caringly and compassionately and connected with every single person in the room. The saying is overused but in this case, and not overstating at all, and I know because I was standing less than 10 feet away, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Immediately following her rousing, standing ovation the paddle raise took in $20,000!!! And that was in less than 5 minutes!!! I was so very proud of her and I couldn't help but think of how proud (and maybe just a little bit embarrassed) Katie would be of her mom.
Katie was alive and well in that room Saturday night. With her parents' Karen and Gregg, and brother David's unwavering love (and excellent memory), Katie's life will continue to have a huge impact on the world!