Hoping for a cure

Published 7:10 am Monday, December 28, 2009

Families are finished saving money for Christmas presents, but some area families are saving for another seasonal cause: the Lyle Area Cancer Auction.

“When I talk to people throughout the year, they always tell me they can’t wait for the auction,” said Larry Ricke, co-chairman of the Lyle Area Cancer Auction. They save money just for this auction.

The 2010 auction is set to start at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 and, the auction will run until about 12:30 a.m. The auction continues Saturday around 11 a.m. and lasts until the final item sells, which often goes until 2 a.m. Sunday morning or after.

The Lyle Area Cancer Auction isn’t the only event, as a number of events are held throughout the year leading up to the auction, including the Halfway to January Cancer Bash, Crop for a Cure, a pool tournament in Carpenter, Iowa, and a Harley Davidson raffle.

Each of these groups presents a check to the cause during the auction.

“The auction is kind of like baseball in that it’s our ninth inning,” Ricke said. “We’re coming in for the homerun. That’s when all the other committees come in and present a check of what they raised, and we tally it all together. It’s amazing how many volunteers make this thing click.”

There were two new events this year. The Farmboy Barbecue in March and Mower County Trail Blazers Food Stand at the fair, both donated all the proceeds to the auction.

Aside from new events, the auction remains largely the same each year: “If it works, why change it?” Ricke said.

Food is served all weekend, with things like homemade soups, hotdogs, pulled pork sandwiches and more. Ricke said about $3,600 was raised last year through the kitchen.

All the items auctioned are donated, which minimizes the event’s expenses. Many area businesses donate their time and products for the auction.

Gift cards are one common item auctioned off, and Ricke said they almost always sell for more than their value.

“A lot of people say, I’ve been to an auction,” he said. “I guarantee you, you’ve never been to an auction like this. Its not an ordinary auction.”

Ricke said the auction wouldn’t be possible without the donations and support from local businesses.

Aside from the support of area businesses, Ricke said about 15 auctioneers donated their time and took turns auctioning off the goods.

The auctioneers worked in shifts.

Ricke said the auction lasts almost nonstop through much of the event until every item is sold.

“We can’t have any items unsold,” he said. “It’s all got to sell.”

Ricke said the event can be somber, but it’s also fun. The auction features a victim’s banner and a survivor’s banner with names printed on both. Any one can request that their name or the name of a family member be put on the banner.

The auction started around 1980 at the Silver Saddle in Lyle. The auction raised about $5,300 that year.

In 1983, the auction moved to the Lyle Legion until 2003 when it moved to the Lyle City Building.

In 2002, the last year at the Lyle Legion, the auction raised $81,000. That amount increased to $92,500 in 2003. In 2004, the auction raised the most money to date with $127,000, Ricke said.

“The auction has raised over $100,000 every year since,” Ricke said. “The 2009 auction raised about $118,000.”

The money is presented to the Eagles Cancer Telethon in Rochester. The proceeds then go to groups like the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic and the Hormel Institute.

Planning for the auction is a challenge, because Ricke said he can never anticipate how much money they’ll raise or what groups will be involved because things often just pop up.

“Some donated items don’t come in until the day of the auction,” Ricke said.

“It’s really amazing because some of the stuff we don’t really know about until the week before and people call us,” Ricke said.

“It’s always unexpected, and what you see there is unbelievable,” he added.

However, that can cause some stress leading up to the event: “You have no idea how nerve-racking it is,” he said.

Despite the tension, Ricke said people come each year and give, making each year a fun and unique event.

We know the why part.

But how it’s done: “People need to come and see it,” Ricke said.