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Sports Memorabilia Auction
by Lisa Hummel with Ralph Caminero
One of the biggest events in Harrisburg sports history is coming to Riverside Stadium on June 12. It isnt a Senators baseball game its the 13th Annual Sports Auction, an event designed to raise funds for United Cerebral Palsy of the Capital Area. This event was initiated by Billy Kaldes, owner of The Spot, whose affinity for the charity comes from personal experience and success with the program.
It began in 1987 as something for his daughter. The premise seemed simple enough raise money to support a local charity by auctioning sports memorabilia. Now, 13 years later, the times have changed, the sports world has grown, and the sports memorabilia auction has become an annual event drawing crowds of patrons and raising thousands of dollars every year.
Kaldes began the auction at the encouragement of his friend, former Harrisburg Senators pitching coach and current Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen coach, Don Spin Williams. According to Kaldes, Williams, wanted to do something for Jessica, when he learned that Kaldes newborn daughter was born with cerebral palsy, a condition affecting muscle development and coordination. Inspired and determined, the two put their heads together and decided to raise funds and involve their love of sports at the same time and the rest is history. Although Kaldes claims that Williams is the true creator of the extravaganza, through the years it has been Kaldes that has been the ringleader bringing together a group of dedicated volunteers, collecting an outstanding selection of items, and putting his every effort into guaranteeing that the auction is a success each year.
To be sure, the sports auction has changed dramatically since its premier in 1987. On that day in the middle of a sweltering summer, some 50 people attended the sale and $1,200 was raised at a time when the Senators were in the midst of a slump. While the coordinators were pleased with their turnout, they could have never expected the tremendous growth that has occurred in the past 13 years. At last years event alone, more than 200 people were in attendance and more than $57,000 was raised to benefit the United Cerebral Palsy of the Capital Area. The UCP, a charity that has been serving disabled adults and children in the local region for more than 46 years, is the sole benefactor of the auctions proceeds and, according to its Director of Administrative Services, Jennifer Brubaker, is very grateful for the support of the Harrisburg Senators and Billy Kaldes and the efforts that they put into this, our biggest fundraiser each year.
While the accolades and waves of praise often float in Kaldes direction, it is obvious in talking to him that his love for children and his love for sports make this auction truly a labor of the heart and not one for his pride. Its not just about Jessica, Kaldes attests. And, in talking to him, one can see that that is true. I just wanted to do something to make it better for children, he says, adding, I just wanted to bring a smile to their faces. A self-admitted emotional person, Kaldes takes tremendous joy and satisfaction in the happiness the auction has brought to area children, and enjoys the wonderful relationship that has developed between he, the UCP, the city of Harrisburg, and the Senators. The city has been very kind to us, Billy continues, adding that the community and its leaders have done nothing but supported this endeavor.
As for the Senators, Kaldes has nothing but respect for his hometown sluggers, working closely with General Manager Todd Vande Woude, to include the team in the event as much as possible. When looking at this years event, it is obvious that that is the case. This year, in addition to numerous professional sports items available for auction, the Senators have provided a complete collection of Championship Baseballs from each of the teams winning seasons. Members of the team will also be on-hand during the event to sign autographs, and, in a move that was overwhelming for Kaldes, former catcher Michael Barrett is largely responsible for obtaining a rare, autographed picture of Mark McGwire crossing the plate after his record-breaking homerun an item that will surely draw a response from the auction crowd.
At this years auction more than 150 hard-to-find items are ready to be put up for bid. Through personal connections and heart-felt requests, Kaldes and the auction volunteers have been able to secure items from such noteworthy athletes as the Minnesota Vikings Randy Moss, former Yankee great Mickey Mantle, current Mariners superstar Ken Griffey, Jr., and basketball legend Michael Jordan. Kaldes is also sure to add that the auction has obtained a basketball that was autographed by the complete roster of the 1997-98 World Champion Chicago Bulls including Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
When talking to Kaldes, his excitement and true love for this event is evident in every word. His appreciation for the hard work and effort of the dedicated volunteers, the outpouring of kindness from the community, and the relationships he has built with the athletes he has come in contact with throughout the years are clearly what motivates him to continue this event every year. But he is still inspired by the children, drawing upon their smiling faces and the sense of contentment that the funds raised bring to their lives. Because to Billy Kaldes, its never been about the praise or the connections to the sports world or even the money its always been about the children.
Rain or shine, the auction will begin at 10am on June 12 under the grandstand at Riverside Park; registration for the auction begins at 8:45am. The auction is expected to last 23 hours. Questions concerning the auction should be directed to Billy Kaldes at 234-5271, Jennifer Brubaker at 737-3577 or Todd Vande Woude at 231-4444. Items for auction will be on display in Strawberry Square (near Chesapeake Bagel) until Wednesday, June 9.