As part of the AED Summit in Chicago earlier this year, The AED Foundation held its fourth annual Fundraising Gala, an event celebrating AED members and generous supporters of The AED Foundation. In addition to entertainment, Chicago-style food, open bar and an awards ceremony, the festivities included the annual Live Auction to raise money for the Foundation.
This year, the Fundraising Gala and Live Auction raised over $250,000, which will be used to support The AED Foundation programs, as well as the mission to address the equipment industry’s technician shortage.
Established in 1991, The AED Foundation focuses on professional education and workforce development in the industry. For example, last year, The AED Foundation accredited diesel-equipment technology college programs, advocated for more federal investment in technical education, and increased awareness of career opportunities. The money raised at the Gala provides essential funding for these activities.
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In his acknowledgment of the contributions from sponsors and donors that assist in raising money to enable The AED Foundation to continue its support of the equipment industry, Jason Blake, executive vice president and COO of The AED Foundation, extended a special thank you to Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers for making the live auction possible.
Ritchie Bros., a 25-year AED member, served as the host sponsor. “We’ve been doing the auction for more than ten years,” estimates Logan Mellott, sales director, strategic accounts. “We do it to raise money for the Foundation.” He goes on to explain that Ritchie Bros. does about 100 charity auctions and other community events each year.
Gary Seybold, vice president, OEM dealers/special accounts at Ritchie Bros., returned this year as auctioneer. “Using Gary is a tradition,” says Marty McCormack, associate director of development and workforce for The AED Foundation.
“Ritchie Bros. is an ambassador at The AED Foundation auction,” Seybold states. “It’s a great event and lots of our customers and friends are there. It’s well worth our time.” He appreciates the visibility it provides for the company, allowing him to make personal connections with their customers. Seybold takes advantage of those personal relationships to increase the bidding. “I know a lot of the members, so I call them out by name and encourage them to bid. I get their egos involved and make it a competition.”
Seybold also makes it fun. As Mellott acknowledges, this is not a typical auction. “There are different cadence and pace, and the items are less related to the industry than our typical auctions.”
Simultaneously whipping up excitement and setting a more relaxed tone takes a special skill. Seybold says he sells more slowly at The AED Foundation auction, giving him time to “cut-up” and have fun with the crowd that includes AED members, partners and their families. And, because so many of the bidders are familiar to him, he knows exactly how to joke around with them.
While Seybold worked the crowd, Brian P. McGuire, AED’s President and CEO, stood beside him on stage, describing each item up for bid. “He is a great guy and it helps to have him on stage with me.”
McGuire had his work cut out for him. The AED Foundation auction offers very different items for sale than a typical Ritchie Bros. auction, Seybold emphasizes. “Things like trips, wine and jewelry.”
McCormack lists a few of the unique items donated to the 13th annual Live Auction and Gala:
- Dinner with AED President & CEO Brian McGuire
- 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for two
- Five-night Royal Caribbean Cruise Getaway for two
- Three-night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana for two
“We had many generous donors,” McCormack continues, “who donated vacation packages like a European getaway and a Caribbean cruise, as well as sports memorabilia, a bourbon collection, a wine collection, a tailgate package, jewelry and an executive chair.”
Ritchie Bros. themselves donated one vacation package: a three-day fishing trip to a private island off Vancouver, B.C. – a $10,000 value. “It’s all about raising money for the Foundation and supporting education in the industry,” Mellott says.
When a bidding war broke out over the fishing trip, Ritchie Bros. contributed another one. “The trip had very active bidding, so we offered a second trip to the next bidder at the winning price,” Mellott explains. “It’s important for the company to donate.”
Raising the bar
McCormack notes that the record-setting night, which included $40,000 in sponsorship to cover the food and bar, established another “first.” Added to the Lester Heath Award that recognizes one AED member’s commitment and support was the inaugural Technicians of the Year Awards to acknowledge eight techs.
“We were also excited to recognize our outstanding inaugural class of technicians of the year, which is one of the ways we can showcase the critical role that technicians play in our industry,” Blake elaborates.
All winners were present at the Gala to accept their awards. Representing each region, they are as follows:
- Canada: Clayton Kennon from SMS Equipment
- Great Lakes: Randy Ciolkosz from Miller-Bradford & Risberg Inc.
- Midwest: David R. DeGood from Bobcat Enterprises Inc.
- Northeast: Steve French from Rock & Recycling Equipment LLC
- Rocky Mountain: Loren O’Connor from Sunstate Equipment Co. LLC
- South Central: Dalton Koelzer from Vermeer Texas-Louisiana
- Southeast: Jeremy Ford from Ascendum Machinery
- West: Jake Dugger from Coastline Equipment
Topping the 2020 Fundraising Gala and Live Auction is going to be difficult, McCormack acknowledges, but having the support of generous donors and the auctioneering skills of Ritchie Bros. will help The AED Foundation meet next year’s goals.