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Lead story: South Valley Wine Auction a rousing success

Thousands raised to help fund local middle, high school sports

Published in the April 2-16, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo by Marty Cheek Auctioneer Mark Turner gets the crowds excited about bidding for a bottle of Calera wine, held by Martin Groen, with Cherisse White looking on.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Auctioneer Mark Turner gets the crowds excited about bidding for a bottle of Calera wine, held by Martin Groen, with Cherisse White looking on.

In her high heels, Cherisse White sauntered across the floor of the Morgan Hill Community Center’s ball room for two hours March 22, showing off sports memorabilia, paintings, and a plethora of high-end wine bottles as auctioneer Mark Turner kept pushing the crowd to raise their bids. White volunteered to help out with the annual South Valley Wine Auction event that for the past 15 years has raised thousands of dollars to support athletic programs in local schools. This year’s event raised about $40K before expenses.

“This is my first South Valley Wine Auction. I have a daughter at Live Oak High School, and I can’t believe I’ve never attended,” White said. “This is one of the best events ever in Morgan Hill. The community comes out and all the restaurants and wineries come together and make a difference for athletes in Morgan Hill. O-M-G, make it happen.”

As auctioneer, this was also Turner’s first year at the event. He played off the energy of the crowd, creating a friendly competition among bidders to raise the dollar amounts.

“When you really have an audience that’s having a good time, it makes a difference,” Turner said. “The thing about fundraising, as the level of fun goes up, the level of fundraising goes up as well.”

Photo by Marty Cheek Cherisse White displays a magnum bottle of Guglielmo wine to bidders.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Cherisse White displays a magnum bottle of Guglielmo wine to bidders.

The auction event’s work to raise money for school sports is vital because students miss out on personal growth if they don’t have access to athletics, he said.

“I have a heart for kids who are playing in sports,” he said. “There are life lessons that can be learned on the field that they don’t always get in the classroom. Sports teaches life-long lessons that they take with them after school. That’s why this auction is a great time for a great cause.”

Morgan Hill dentist Jon Hatekeyama recalls the circumstances that led to him to initiate the auction in 1999 to help finance sports in local schools.

“The reason I started it was that my older son was in cross country at Live Oak and they didn’t have enough funds to give the boys their own jerseys, they had to use woman’s jerseys,” he said. “I thought that was so ridiculous, and that’s why I started this fundraiser.”

Within a few years, the auction quickly grew in popularity, raising $20,000 and $30,000 and so organizers decided to broaden beyond the cross-country team because it didn’t need such a large sum of money.

“Maybe if they wanted limousine service to their track meets,” Hatekeyama said with a laugh. “That’s when we turned it over to the entire boosters organizations to benefit all the sports.”

KBAY radio personality Jona Denz-Hamilton, who annually serves as the event’s master of ceremonies, said the decision to move the event from a Friday to a Saturday night auction this year helped spur more bidding activity because people were not tired from the work week.

Photo by Marty Cheek Cherisse White, on left, and  Ava Serna display six bottles of vino that were auctioned at the South Valley Wine Auction to raise money for sports.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Cherisse White, on left, and Ava Serna display six bottles of vino that were auctioned at the South Valley Wine Auction to raise money for sports.

“I noticed tonight, being on a Saturday, there was a lot of energy, a lot of volume with the talking,” she said. “People were eating and drinking and having a great time. You can tell they were hob-nobbing.”

Denz-Hamilton got involved with the auction 10 years ago when her son attended Sobrato High School and one of his teachers asked her to get involved because of her public speaking skills. The next thing she knew, she was on the event’s board of directors.

“I hop on every year and I’ve got to say that it’s my favorite event — and I do a lot of charity things — this and (announcing for) the Fourth of July parade,” she said. She’s also active with Morgan Hill’s Teachers Aid Coalition.

One reason she enjoys being involved in fundraising is that many people in Morgan Hill dedicate their time to helping local schools.

“There are lot of people who care,” she said. “People like to see good being done and be a part of it. I see that a lot in Morgan Hill. I try to branch out and do other cities, too. But there’s always some event happening here — I think more so than in other towns.”

His second year as a guest at the South Valley Wine Auction, local resident Brent Bear bid on and won a 2009 bottle of Clos LaChance pinot noir as well as a 2010 vintage from Calera Wine in San Benito County. He said that the South Valley Wine Auction is a fun way to support school athletic endeavors for local youth.

“I had a great time. Some of my friends are a part of the auction and I know it’s a good cause,” he said. “The people were very generous — fun-loving and generous — to help kids who need it. The schools are hurting, so they need help like this.”