How a Virtual Auction Came to Be

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How a Virtual Auction Came to Be

By Rosanne Selfon

Could someone please explain why people – grown-up adults –  become kids again whenever someone mentions the revered word ‘Harlam’? And, those same adults seem mesmerized just thinking about bizarre items like bent Chader Ochel (Dining Hall) silverware and Melmac plates and dishes, square plaques made from former Formica tables, a yellow meal, or cookies that look like the Chapel on the Hill. Most of all, for those adults, the thought of a whole weekend staying on those sacred Kunkletown grounds literally reduces those grown-ups to frenzied nine-year-olds seeking the roots of their childhoods!

Actually, you don’t have to explain anything. If you tuned into the Harlam silent auction and joined the entertaining live auction (along with the song session), you are a Harlam disciple! Drumroll please: that auction raised $43,339 for the Mitch Perlmeter Scholarship Fund! The whole shebang, simply stated, was amazing perfection (even with Ian Mallitz losing his voice). But it didn’t happen on a lark. Let me explain how it took a village!

Approximately 10 years ago, our Harlam Pro Staff partnered with our lay leaders to develop a ‘culture of giving’ at Camp Harlam. This offered a whole new concept for us. For too many years to count, we had never had to raise money via donations. We had never sought financial support through goodwill. We hadn’t built those types of relationships. But times changed, and now we needed to raise funds for both scholarship and specific capital improvements (like the new girls camp bunks). So, we went to work.

Just this past year, amidst COVID-19, our community responded to support camp by raising over $1.5 million through a variety of paths. Thank you, everyone, for your huge support! But I want to share more about our community than the money — even though everyone I know will tell you that all I do is ask people for their money!

Nearly four months ago, a small Auction Committee began to meet weekly (God bless Zoom). Talk about building community, we became a little family. Check out our Zoom picture taken during our celebration call! We planned, strategized, created and took on assignments, reached out and reached in, but I NEVER ONCE doubted what we could achieve – a fun and successful pandemic Harlam activity that would raise money. What we did not realize was how attached we had become to our Wednesday night gatherings.

Hailing from California to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we always checked in first. Was everyone well? Are you doing ok? Then we jumped into auction business, gathering steam and enthusiasm during each call. Chairs Pam Sandonato and Ramona Sitko kept us moving forward. After the event, they commented about deep connections and the significant dedication of our Pro Staff. After the auction, Ramona, who didn’t attend Harlam herself, asked, “What is bush time anyway?” and we all laughed! Pam claimed she originally ‘voluntold’ well-connected west-coaster Ian Mallitz that he was part of the committee. During our celebration call, Ian joyfully announced, “This is the happiest I have been in a long time, the most connected I have felt, the most pride I have felt.”

For all of us, Ian’s “goosebump city” was a feeling generated by so many who took part: 350 registrants and over 128 Zoom rooms. Yes, we raised lots of money to give more kids the opportunity to come to camp. But we loved that families participated together. We almost felt like we were in Kunkletown together. We are almost there at summertime again. We are almost back at camp.

Whether you just tuned in or bought a tree or plates or cookies or a baking session with Bubbio, thank you! Camp Harlam breeds incredible devotion with the deepest connections that do last a lifetime. And you know what…Camp Harlam also breeds talent and success!

Keep tuned to us…who knows what activity we will fashion next. Until then, remember that the beautiful acreage in Kunkletown is truly where friends become family! Thank you Harlam family!

With love,
The Auction Committee

Rosanne Selfon is a member and former Chair of the Harlam Camp Council and a proud camp grandparent.