Donations received for Oaklawn Benefit Auction

MARSHALL – Paul Davis’ face lights up when he talks about trains – especially if it’s the kind of toy trains that have captivated him since he was a boy.

“I received a Lionel train in 1949, and then each Christmas I got another car to add to the train,” he said. “I never had a permanent layout until about six years ago, though.”

These days Davis shares his joy with visitors to his home, who marvel at the “miniature Marshall” he has created with elaborate – and frequently antique – toy train engines and cars, which snake along multiple tracks and move among small buildings, cars, parks, people and even animals.

Now Davis hopes to share that joy even further, through a donation of an 18-piece Thomas & Friends electric O-gauge toy train set to Oaklawn’s 29th annual Benefit Auction, which will take place Saturday, March 9, in the ballroom of FireKeepers Casino Hotel.

The site is at 11177 E. Michigan Ave., between Marshall and Battle Creek, where the auction has been held since 2015. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with a silent auction, and a live auction will begin at 8:30 p.m. Refreshments will include desserts, a strolling dinner and a cash bar. The event’s theme is “Mitten State Pride.”

The train set Davis has donated includes an engine with interchangeable faces, two passenger cars, 10 pieces of track, an electrical cord and a remote control. The set also is Bluetooth-connected so users can run the set via smartphone.

 “Some youngster is really going to enjoy this,” Davis said. “Oh, and maybe Dad will, too.”

Davis said he will be happy to coach the top bidder in how to set up the system, which is expandable using additional sets available from the manufacturer.

“We’re so grateful to Paul for his generosity,” said Ryan Traver, who is auction committee chair for the fifth year, with support from Nate Stewart as vice chair for the second year. “It means a lot to us, because Paul also is a past chair of our auction’s acquisitions committee.” Traver is owner and brand manager at BluFish in Marshall.

Davis, who moved to Marshall from Troy with his wife in 1991, led Oaklawn’s auction acquisitions committee in 1997 and 1998, and continues to boost the health-care organizations efforts throughout the region.

Davis credited the care his wife received at Oaklawn with her ability to live for 25 years after a cancer diagnosis in the late 1980s.

“The care we receive there has been very good, and we liked the physicians and the staff,” he said, adding that his work in auction acquisitions was made easier when people saw the need for proper medical care close to home.

“Even in bad times, people still opened their wallets or donated items to make the auction successful,” Davis said.

Other auction packages donated by individuals and regional businesses include an array of trips, event and show tickets, memorabilia, specialty products, services and gift certificates.

A favorite vacation package that’s up for grabs is a seven-day stay in England for two people, valued at $3,200, donated by longtime Marshall resident Tom Franke, who has contributed similar excursions to the auction in past years. Franke said past winners were delighted by the visit to a part of the United Kingdom they’d never before considered.

That package may be split among two or three Abacus Hotels – the LeStrange Arms Hotel in Old Hunstanton, Norfolk; Orton Hall Hotel in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire; or the Knight’s Hill Hotel near King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

“It’s a part of England that many tourists don’t see,” Franke said. “You get a real feel for what it’s like to meet and be among the English people. It’s off the beaten track, but it’s still an extremely beautiful and interesting area.” The package doesn’t include air fare, but includes sleeping accommodations, breakfasts, drinks and evening meals.

Franke counsels the winning bidders about the best sites to visit in the region – such as the cathedral cities of Ely and Norwich as well as stately homes and gardens, including the royal estate of Sandringham. More information may be obtained by checking the individual hotel web sites as well as

Other donated items already in hand include:

– Tickets to a game played by the Chicago Bears, donated by the Mike Furrey Foundation.

– Use of a suite at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids for a concert by Cher, donated by Michigan Office Solutions.

– A $100 gift card to for services at Bud’s Towing & Automotive, donated by the company.

–  A Victoria’s Farmhouse Dollhouse, donated by Brent and Harmony Dawson, and already assembled and decorated by Bill and Sara Andrews).

– A KitchenAid Mixer, donated by Southern Michigan Bank & Trust.

– A sixth-generation iPad featuring 128GB, donated by Nita Armstrong.

– A set of four automobile tires, donated by Tire City Tire Pros.

– A FitBit Versa, donated by Marla Stuck.

– Six sessions of laser hair removal, donated by Oaklawn Plastics & Reconstructive Surgery.

Hundreds of items for the auction – including trips, event and show tickets, memorabilia, specialty products, services and gift certificates – typically are gathered and catalogued for each year’s auction.

Specific information about these and other items will be made available in the weeks leading up to the auction at Descriptions of many auction items already may be viewed on that site.

Participants may bid from their smartphones, iPads or one of the numerous electronic tablets that will be available around the ballroom. Participants also can purchase a bidder number remotely and bid at home or if they are out of town.

Those who wish to donate, assist or ask a question about this year’s auction may contact Sara Jeffery in Oaklawn’s Development Department by calling (269) 789-3942 or emailing Additional information about the event is available at