Sports memorabilia up for grabs at fundraising auction
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Sports memorabilia up for grabs at fundraising auction

How do you raise money for a community arts festival? As with most of life’s questions, the answer has something to do with Don Cherry.

When Paul Knowles, executive director at the New Hamburg Live arts festival, was looking for ways to cover its $65,000-plus budget. The idea was hatched to hold a silent auction for sports memorabilia, and through friends in the Anglican Church, Knowles found a connection to Canada’s favourite plaid-suited pundit.

“When he’s not doing ‘Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Hockey’ he is a devout Anglican, and I know he’s a very community-minded guy,” said Knowles. “I contacted an Anglican priest who knows him and asked if he’d simply pass along the request to Don. … About two weeks later a box arrived at our front door with a bunch of Don Cherry autographed memorabilia.

“We said, ‘That’s pretty cool – now how can we build on that?’ So we started making every contact we could – talking to people who might know people.”

Thus began the three-month process of accumulating autographed keepsakes from a diverse group of athletes such as hockey players James Reimer, David Clarkson and Adam Henrique, golfer Greg Norman, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Kitchener Rangers (who donated a team-signed jersey), and Hall of Fame netmider Ken Dryden (who rarely autographs memorabilia).

“I had a friend who played in the NHL many years ago, and he happened to still have a contact with Ken Dryden,” said Knowles. “I do travel writing, and I happened to be at the Honda Classic two weeks ago, so I certainly worked the room.”

He continued, “And then because we’re a not-for-profit, and because we have established a reputation as a community festival, some of the places we contacted like the Toronto Maple Leafs very generously came through. We got a box in the mail that’s an autographed stick by the entire team this year.”

Also among the two dozen items: a signed jersey from the Kitchener rangers, and an inscribed copy of “A Great Game” by someone named Stephen Harper. Knowles hopes the money raised will help fund a concert for the developmentally challenged … but don’t expect the silent auction to become an annual tradition.

“This is going to be a one-off,” said Knowles. “When someone like Don Cherry comes through, you don’t want to go back and bug them again next time.”

The Sports Memorabilia Auction will take place at the Wilmot Recreation Centre (1291 Nafziger Rd.) on April 4, 4-8 p.m. New Hamburg Live will return for its sixth season June 2-8; more information is available at newhamburglive.ca.

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