YMCA Special Operation auction triples goal

The Warren County YMCA held a Special Operation to help raise funds for its programs.

Organizers were hoping for $50,000.

Any dollars raised through the third annual Special Operations Auction would help ensure that the YMCA could continue to offer programs that don’t drive revenue — including Livestrong, the Seventh-Grade Initiative, Everyone Can Swim, and membership and program scholarships.

YMCA Executive Director Thad Turner said many YMCAs, in the COVID era, have had to scale back operations and focus on the physical fitness and gym portions of their missions. “A lot of Ys right now are at a bare minimum.”

He didn’t want to do that. “All these different programs that don’t raise any money, but go to the community are more needed now,” he said. “It’s more of a mental health place. There are more people here focusing on their spiritual and mental well-being than physical.”

The event reached its goal. That would be a great result if the story ended there.

Before the auction, Turner texted a friend who had helped the Y before to invite him to join in.

The friend was billionaire investor Bill Ackman.

Instead of bidding on items, Ackman issued a challenge.

“He said, ‘I’ll challenge everybody and I’ll match up to $100,000,'” Turner said. “In the military, that’s what we call a force multiplier.”

Ackman could have simply made a donation.

Instead, throughout the event, the bidders kept Ackman’s challenge in mind.

“Everybody was bidding on things knowing whatever they bid was going to be doubled,” Turner said. “That’s the genius behind it.”

“It was a super fun night,” Turner said.

The live event was held Dec. 15 at the Conewango Club. Bidders could do business in person or via online bidding.

There were personal testimonials. “We had some people come in that had benefited from some of the programs,” Turner said.

The items included products and services from local businesses and artists, stays in luxury tropical condominiums and local cabins, an elk sighting trip, a sailing experience, sports memorabilia, tickets, and tours, political visits and tours, and much more.

Turner credits YMCA Board President Lincoln Sokolski, of Whirley DrinkWorks!, with the idea and YMCA Business Manager Kathryn Zurcher for making this year’s event go smoothly.

Following the auction, the YMCA welcomed donations. Sokolski mirrored Ackman’s offer and provided a 100-percent match to all cash donations, Turner said.

Including the doubled auction and the doubled donations, the event raised over $170,000.

The success of the auction helps carry those non-revenue programs.

“It means that they can still be funded… they can still go on,” Turner said. “We still concentrate on things that meet the needs of the community and not just the gym and fitness aspects of the YMCA.”


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