More than $150,000 was raised at the 28th Annual Gift Hill School auction on Saturday, March 8, at the Caneel Bay Resort.
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Bidders walked away with big prizes like a seven-night Mediterranean yachting holiday and brand new cars at the 28th annual Gifft Hill School auction on Saturday night, March 8, but the big winners of the evening were the school’s students, who will benefit from the funds raised.
A final tally was still being counted at press time, but as of Sunday morning, GHS Development Director Beth Jones reported that more than $150,000 had been raised at the auction for the school’s scholarship fund.
The school — and the amount raised at its annual fundraiser — have grown exponentially since the founding of the Pine Peace
School in 1975, explained one of the school’s founders, Andy Rutnik.
“Our first fundraiser was organized by my wife,” said Rutnik, whose grandson now attends the school. “We raised maybe $5,000, and we were ecstatic. To see the energy, happiness, and joy of everyone wanting to participate and donate to the school makes you realize what a special place St. John is.”
The auction took place at the Caneel Bay Resort for the first time in several years, with silent auction items available for bidding under a tent on the resort’s manicured lawn, while the live auction, complete with exciting bidding wars over items like a three-night BVI sailing charter and a brand new Jeep Compass Sport, took place at the resort’s waterfront restaurant as attendees enjoyed a well-stocked buffet provided by Caneel Bay. The atmosphere was festive, with the sound of corks popping and bidders, dressed in their finest island fancy wear, sipping complimentary wine and champagne.
The class of 2014, consisting of just six students, each spoke to the crowd about their experiences at the school, while a heartwarming video of student life at GHS filmed and produced by Steve Simonsen brought many in the crowd to tears. The funds raised at the event, which go directly to the school’s scholarship fund, are incredibly important to GHS and its students, explained the school’s upper campus dean, Liz Kinsella.
“The money that we raise is essential,” said Kinsella. “One of our mission statements is we believe that a Gifft Hill School education should be available to anyone. Without events like tonight and the money that we raise, we really wouldn’t be able to make good on that vision.”
“When people turn out in these kinds of numbers to show their support and have fun doing it, it reminds us that this is a community endeavor,” Kinsella continued. “We’re all in it together.”
GHS Interim Head of School Beth Knight expressed her appreciation for the support by those who attended the sold-out event.
“I am so grateful for the continued support of this wonderful institution for our students,” she said.
Several of the school’s students volunteered at the event, handling everything from welcoming guests to the resort to serving and bussing tables and even making desserts that the event’s attendees enjoyed during the live auction.
Chairman of the Board Miles Stair, who walked away from the auction with one of two brand-new Jeep Compass Sports, also expressed his appreciation for the support of the school.
“I just think Gifft Hill School is a unique part of the community,” said Stair. “It’s a wonderful education, and who’s not in support of education? This is our premiere event, and to see all the supporters gathered here is wonderful.”