Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts had the most successful auction in the 19-year history of the event last month. So successful, in fact, that the school had to turn people away from the March 24 function.
"There were people who asked me if tickets were available for next year, when they were leaving the auction this year," said Ascension principal Neil Kearley.
Kearley believes a turnover of customers may have contributed to the swell in attendees and demand for tickets priced a $60 a plate.
"Last year, a number of our regulars couldn't make it and we kept the same numbers and added new people," he said. "When we came to this year with our regulars who can attend plus the new people."
Word of mouth and social media were other reasons Kearley gave for the increase in attendance.
Traditionally, the gala had been a St. Patrick's Day event, occurring on March 17, but the school decided to move the event to the following Saturday.
"I think we have the nicest auction in all of Conception Bay," said Kearley. "It's a very nice evening and people enjoy themselves immensely."
Total money raised
Although the final figures are still unknown, Kearley estimates the school will profit upwards of $33,000 from this year's auction. That is up from $25,000 made the previous year.
For an auction that routinely averages between $20,000 and $25,000, that total is a vast improvement.
"It's a lot of money in terms of benefitting students," said Kearley.
Donations for the auction come from business from in and outside the community and the principal said some 450 different businesses made donations to the event.
"The thing is, that when we call a business, the response is, 'Oh yeah, Ascension auction, we'll send something down or here's what we're sending,'" said Kearley. "The support of the business community is unbelievable.
"That's not only here, it reaches into St. John's."
The auction has been an invaluable tool for the school. In the 19-year history of the event, Kearley said the gala has raised approximately $400,000.
Kearley said the school usually has a goal in mind heading into the auction. Last year, the goal was to completely change the French lab with the money raised from the auction.
A large majority of the $25,000 raised from last year was used switching the lab from CD-based to digital.
"Some of the money from this year will be used to finish the lab," said Kearley.
Also in the budget will be a new table saw for Ascension's shop class. But, it is not just any table saw.
Created by SawStop, the saw has been constructed with special technology and is designed to be exponentially safer than a normal saw.
The blade is designed to stop immediately as soon as it touches human skin. Instead of losing a finger, the user would suffer nothing more than a nick.
"Our shop teacher runs a very tight ship, but there is always the possibility of someone losing a finger or worse," said Kearley.
He said the shop teacher approached the principal about purchasing this particular saw about "two or three months before the auction."
"If we know this technology exists, and it can save someone's finger, you know we are going to get it," said Kearley.
A wireless plan
One goal Kearley has in mind involves making Ascension Collegiate a completely wireless environment, a process that could take up to two years to complete.
"It's not just going out to The Source and buying a couple of wireless routers," he said. "It's not the same as putting wireless in your house."
Security would be paramount with this new system.
"We have student personal information and we would need encryption," said Kearley.
Putting such a system in would be costly for the school and the first thing that would need to be done is an assessment by the school board to see what would be needed to set up a system that could over 660 different data streams occurring at one time.
"It's going to be wireless, but wireless with security," said Kearley.
Kearley said the money from the auction allows them to provide all of these services to students and teachers at Ascension.
He told of a time when the new guidance counsellor came into Kearley's office and asked for a piece of software that would aid the assessment of teacher's with special needs.
"I asked if it would benefit the students. He said, 'yes' and I said, 'Buy it,'" said Kearley. "He said, 'you didn't even ask me how much it is.' I said if it will help the students and we are going to use it, then buy it.' Why can I answer like that? Because of the auction."