By Kevin Loker, C2M Exectutive Editor

When the idea of an auction that would raise money to fund scholarships for students in financial need came up in passing conversation in the halls of the Admissions Office this past January, Dean Andrew Flagel suggested to two interested Mason Ambassadors that if they really wanted to make everything work smoothly, they should wait and take some time to plan the event for next year.

One of those students, sophomore Dani Miller, did not agree.

“No, we’re doing it now,” she said. And so started a two-month frenzy of speedy brainstorming, continuously securing supplies and co-sponsors and sleeplessly orchestrating a huge collaborative and campus-wide volunteer effort.

The end result is “GBAY,” George Mason University’s first annual bidding match in which a student can win such privileges as being chauffeured in the Mason Dining golf cart to and from class for a week and, at the same time, help fund a fellow student’s way through college.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, but the rewards are worth it,” said Brittany Burkhart, Miller’s fellow Ambassador and co-organizer of the event. “It’s great for everyone in the Mason community because they’re really giving back to themselves.”

The event, which takes place at 7 p.m. in the Johnson Center Thursday, April 1, is modeled after similar auctions at Loyola University Maryland and George Washington University, where Flagel previously worked. According to Flagel, the auction at GW was one of the most popular events at the school, raising between $20,000 and $30,000 for student scholarships in one year in the 1980s.

“It was the intangible items that always brought people out,” said Flagel of why the event was successful. “People hash out big money for reserved parking. When you bid on one of these items, you still pay — and maybe you pay more — but you get the space.”

Parking spaces are only an example of the biddable items on GBAY’s list, items that one would not normally be able to buy. According to Flagel, departments and individuals from across campus have been more than generous. Biddable items include a complimentary wait staff for an evening at Southside, being university president for a day and a one-hour pick-up basketball game in the Patriot Center with nine friends. Someone can even win the opportunity to name an item on the Rat menu after him or herself, or create his or her own smoothie for the menu at Freshens.

“Everyone we’ve approached has said yes,” sad Flagel, emphasizing that Burkhart and Miller have been the aggressive ones in making the event happen.
But the two sophomores have not shouldered all of the work. Approximately 200 students from 14 co-sponsoring campus organizations have taken part in preparations for Thursday’s event. Some volunteers and co-sponsors have concentrated their efforts in advertising and events planning. Others, like the GMU ROTC, have volunteered their services. Whoever bids high enough can join the ROTC’s battalion for the day and rappel off Fenwick Library.

“Like the golf cart, we expect that one to be a hot item,” said Burkhart.

Many of the items have also come from off-campus donations.

“We sent out about 1,000 ask-letters,” said Miller, who while overseeing the project with Burkhart has concentrated her efforts on getting items students would want to bid on. “The letters went out to local businesses, museums, wineries, embassies, congressmen — everyone.” As a result of their efforts, the “Bunny” dress from Betsey Johnson, a beginner ski or snowboard package at Liberty Mountain Resort and a weekend-night stay with breakfast for two at the Ritz Carlton Tyson’s are all biddable items on GBAY’s list.

Auctions are both live and silent. Door prizes will also be given away.

Tickets for the event are $5 in advance. Tickets sold at the door are $7 for students and $10 for faculty, staff, alumni and the community. Payment must be made on site, but can be made with credit cards or cash.