To the Rescue: HBS Charity Auction Nets Over $11,000 for Disaster Victims

$11,877. At a place like HBS, where daily discussions focus on multi-billion-dollar corporations and multi million-dollar profit margins, that doesn’t seem like a huge sum of money. But to the victims of the recent disasters on the Gulf Coast and in Pakistan, it can make a huge difference.

Thanks to the generosity of many HBS students, more than $11,000 was raised for disaster relief at a charity party and auction, which were held at The Hong Kong on October 19. The fundraiser was organized by Section A, with all of 31 auction items donated by its members.

“I think that the event succeeded because there are many people at HBS who love to have a good time, and who are constantly looking for ways to make a difference,” Party at the Kong Co-Organizer Ryan Buell (NA) said. “This event happened to capture both desires.

“We were repeatedly amazed by the generosity and creativity of our sectionmates, who donated experiences, goods, and services that went far beyond anything we initially envisioned. As word spread, we realized that it had the potential to become quite big. The event’s success is a real testament to the character of HBS students.”

Just how much can $11,000 help the victims?

“Just $10 can feed an entire family in Pakistan for a week,” Omer Ismail (NA), a native of Pakistan, said. “There’s big need for tetanus shots after the earthquake. People are going to die without them and just $100 dollars can save 50 lives.”

Initially, the event was intended to be a simple charity party, with money raised through an $8 entry fee. But Section A eventually decided to combine the party with a prior idea of having an auction. The night featured both silent and live auctions. In the end, the auctions were the big money makers, accounting for $9607 of the total.

There is no doubt the star of the evening was auction MC Rob Deeming (NA). The Yorkshire-native brought a distinctly English level of panache and grace to a place that is normally well, you’ve been to The Kong.

Deeming’s pre-auction pep talk on “irrational economics” proved prophetic, as party-goers paid hundreds of dollars for items that most people would, at best, describe as “priceless.” Among the more “generous” bids: $60 for a day with the Section A Panda, $260 for a date with the Section A President, $330 for two personal shopping trips, and most incomprehensible of all, $130 for backgammon lessons.

“Some of the prices achieved were truly astounding,” said Deeming, whose previous auction experience was in Europe. “Americans are clearly awful decision makers when drunk. Paying over $200 for a Larry Summers signed book is extraordinary behavior! This event was far more successful, and raised more money, than similar events I have been involved with in the past.”

Even in the crazed buying atmosphere at The Kong that night, there were bargains to be had. Notable among them, a week’s stay at a 14-bed beach house in Ixtapa, Mexico, generously donated by Arturo Weiss Pick (NA), and purchased for $4,500 by a group headed by Section A’s Jennifer Gertel. Other big-ticket items included a weekend in Venice for $700 and a pair of Red Sox tickets for $460.

The fundraiser was part of the school-wide competition sponsored by the Student Association to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. The contest concluded this past Friday, and as of October 18, HBS students had helped raise over $19,000 dollars for the relief efforts. There is no question that fundraisers like the Party at the Kong have substantially increased that total.

Originally, the Party at The Kong was focused solely on raising money for the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but the catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan changed all that.

“When the earthquake struck, it quickly became clear that Pakistan needed support as well,” Buell said. “One of the great strengths of HBS is that it brings students from around the globe, not just the United States. We felt it wouldn’t be right to turn our backs on the Pakistani tragedy.”

Certainly, much more help is needed in the American South and Pakistan. But with a problem as big a relief effort spanning two continents, it’s important to remember that every little contribution – your little contribution – can have a big impact.

Need proof? Look no further than a Wednesday night two weeks ago, when a bunch of $8 cover charges, a few personal shopping trips, a lot of generosity, and a backgammon lesson quickly became valued at $11,000.