By Tom Talbot
As the seasons change here in Western New York and my driveway is buried in two feet of snow, baseball has turned to basketball (and now coming back into baseball again) and I’m coaching my twin boys in travel hoops again. One of the cool opportunities we have this year is to play in a fund-raising tournament to raise money and awareness for the “Christopher’s Challenge” charity.
This charity raises money to pay for the typing of samples for individuals willing to become bone marrow donors. The tournament features more than 80 teams from New York, Pennsylvania and Canada. To help out, each participating player is asked to write a letter to a sports person, celebrity or restaurant to request donations. Everything received back will be placed into a silent auction during the tournament with all funds raised going to the charity.
I have had some experience with this, as I ran a similar silent auction several years ago for my high school. So not only did every player on my team send out a letter, I got in touch with the organizers and offered up addresses from my website and any other information that might help them, such as signing habits, turn-around time, etc. We also created about 40 additional letters to known signers that usually help out charities.
If you have any items buried in your basement that you would like to donate to the auction, let me know. It’s a very worthwhile charity and has tested nearly 5,000 potential donors with 30 successes to date.
It has only been a month, and we have already received back some really nice items for the auction. First to return was Arnold Palmer, providing a sharp-looking autographed 8-by-10 in an envelope from his company Arnold Palmer Enterprises. Palmer has been known to switch between real autographs and autopens over the years, and he is a great signer in person. This signature looks like the real deal, and I can’t imagine they would send out an autopen when they know it’s being placed in an auction.
Next up was Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly, who always does well in an auction in Bills Country. Even with the woeful state of the current Bills, there was a time when Kelly led them to the Super Bowl four straight years. As a Dolphins fan, I always like to remind Bills fans they lost all four, but it is still a very impressive accomplishment, and such a feat probably won’t happen again.
Kelly has always been classy with his fans and does a lot of work with his own charity, Hunter’s Hope. He doesn’t sign for free through the mail anymore but he was a very quick return when we sent him the tournament letter. He sent a signed 8-by-10 photo from Jim Kelly Inc.
Our best return so far is from basketball legend and Hall of Famer Dick “Dickie V” Vitale. Vitale is just a genuine, great person to deal with. I saw him give a motivational talk several years ago at a local college and I still tell everyone that it is the best speech I’ve ever witnessed – just “Awesome baby!”
Vitale sent us his newest book Living the Dream, signed on the inside with his “Hall of Fame 2008” inscription. He also included three additional signed items and he paid for the postage to ship the book. Vitale has always been a strong supporter of charities, spending a lot of time helping out with the Jimmy V. Foundation for cancer research named after fellow coach Jim Valvano.