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Put kids and toys together and it’s sure to light up little eyes and bring smiles to small faces. Even for catastrophically ill kids who don’t often have much to smile about.
That’s the idea behind the National Auctioneers Association annual toy auction, which took place at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis on Nov. 17 for the eighth consecutive year.
During the hour-long auction, children placed bids on the toys of their choice, using auction paddles and play money to join in the fun. The auction was conducted by 2003 International Auctioneer Champions Jeff Stokes and Kaija Kokesh.
“The children, no matter what their struggles, were out here smiling and laughing and just having a good time,” said Stokes. “It’s obvious that this auction is one of the highlights of their stay here, and I was glad to be part of it.”
This is the ninth year members of the National Auctioneers Association have supported the lifesaving work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, NAA’s official charity. Members have raised nearly $3 million to aid with research and treatment for children with catastrophic illnesses.
“This was fabulous,” Kokesh said following the event. “It is the most rewarding experience I have had all year.”
Kokesh said that, as a mother of four children herself, she could only imagine what the families at the hospital were going through. And helping to ease some of the burden on the families was something she feels is the least she can do.
Sometimes the enthusiasm boiled over. Patient Tyler Warren, 8, was so enthusiastic about the event that when the bidding began he almost jumped out of his seat to hold his paddle up for the first item, even though it was a toddler’s toy. “You don’t want that do you Tyler?” his mother, Tammy, asked him. “Oh. Not really,” he said, lowering his hand. But he did get a video game and an action figure to add to his last year’s item, a Radio Flyer wagon.
Not all of the children can be at the auction. Danielle Acurio, mother of 15-month-old St. Jude patient Jacob Acurio, was bidding on items she thought her son would like. At the time of the auction, Jacob was in MRI for a scan to see if the treatments he has received for neuroblastoma have continued to keep him cancer-free. Danielle got her son some large, interlocking blocks. “He loves stacking things,” she said.
But when the tables are empty, and everyone has a toy, it’s hard to see who has gotten the best deal: the kids or the auctioneers. Ask Stokes and he will tell you he thinks it’s the auctioneers. “The most priceless gift is the smile on the children’s faces.”