Giving Back, Bid by Bid

Not many people have had the chance to hear about my favorite charity, Chair the Love – a 501(c)3 that helps provide wheelchairs and other mobility related items and services to those in need in Central Florida and throughout the world. Every year, Chair the Love hosts their Chair the Love Dinner and Auction to raise money for their cause. Normally, I volunteer at the event, but today, I got to attend as a guest – lucky me!  

I walked through the doors of the Maitland Civic Center, and was immediately greeted by smiling volunteers, helping me down the registration line. They made checking in simple and quick! The registration process was seamless – it even included a way to cast my auction bid through my cell phone – a convenient 21st century touch!

I spent the next hour mingling with friends, shaking new hands and bidding away my last paycheck on the incredible silent auction items. The room was surrounded with over 60 items to bid on – ranging from small baskets of fine wine and chocolate, to grand trips to Belize and Napa Valley.

As cocktail hour ended, we were seated at our tables for dinner, each decorated with beautiful flowers and a touching “distribution” story of someone whose life changed after receiving a wheelchair from Chair the Love. We listened to Chair the Love President, Jason DeBono, and Vice President, Glen Mather, speak of their passions surrounding the charity, as they encouraged everyone to really dive into the meaning of the night.

Later, the Emcee introduced the night’s entertainment, Emmanuel Kelly. I was eagerly anticipating Emmanuel’s performance after watching him compete on X Factor and couldn’t wait to see him perform tonight – and I wasn’t disappointed! He came out singing Imagine – one of my favorite songs by the Beatles.

His “concert” was interspersed with his own personal story of hardships and defeat. He spoke of his life growing up in an orphanage in Baghdad before he and his brother were rescued by their adoptive mother – what an inspiration! There wasn’t a single person in the audience that wasn’t shocked to hear his background, how he came from nothing and ended up here.

After Emmanuel’s performance, the Emcee reappeared on stage to reveal one last surprise for the night. It was time for a live-auction bidding war on the best item of the night – a 4-month-old Australian Shepherd puppy. Talk about a prize!

The night finally came to an end as the silent auction closed and guests left to claim their winnings. I was very pleased with all my bidding successes, winning a full month of unlimited yoga and a gift card for a local hair salon.

By the end of the night, we had raised over $60,000 – equaling 400 wheelchairs that would be donated to those in need! While the event itself was a blast, it made it even more worthwhile knowing that each attendee was able to impact someone else’s life. What an incredibly cool experience, with an even better take away.

By Grace Nelson