A colorful wall of new toys lined the auditorium of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, each waiting to be claimed by a smiling child.
That was the scene at the 20th annual National Auctioneers Association (NAA) Toy Auction in November. Each year, about $6,000 worth of toys are purchased by the NAA and then “auctioned off” to the children of St. Jude. The sky-high auction bids – sometimes reaching into the millions of dollars – are all for show.
“The kids go nuts. They are waving their bid paddles around, and then the auctioneer has to select a child who gets the toy that is up for bid,” said Hannes Combest, CEO of NAA.
The NAA is committed to its support of St. Jude for two reasons: the positive daily impact St. Jude has on children who have cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and St. Jude’s commitment to freely share the discoveries it makes. Every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.
“To realize that we have an opportunity to impact people’s medical care all over the world is really meaningful,” Combest said. “We want to be associated with that kind of initiative.”
The NAA recently completed a $500,000 commitment to fund a post-doctoral fellowship at St. Jude. The group’s 4,000-plus members host auctions where a portion of the proceeds are donated to St. Jude, resulting in more than $4.5 million raised for St. Jude during the NAA’s 20-year partnership.
NAA’s leadership tours St. Jude each year when they come to Memphis for the toy auction.
“Our leadership is then able to articulate St. Jude’s mission to our membership, who then can help tell it to their bidders,” Combest said. “It’s a great program, and we really enjoy being a part of it.”