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Volunteers to serve up fun and food during Oaklawn’s 24th annual Benefit Auction

Mix the good times of a sporting event with a community’s spirit of compassion and you’ve got Oaklawn Hospital’s 24th Annual Benefit Auction.

“Just think of it as a giant ‘March Madness’ shindig and show up ready to party,” said auction chairman Ryan Traver. “You can dress in gear that shows your support for your favorite high school, college or pro sports teams. It’s going to be a blast – a ton of fun.”

Some fortunate bidder will walk away from the event with an exclusive package assembled by 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema, his wife Sandy, Mel’s Allsports of Marshall and Mike and Alicia Beck – three box seats at a Tigers game, Champions Club amenities and team gear, too.

Rozema plans to attend the auction to make sure the package he’s donating goes for the highest price possible, since he’ll be seated with the winning bidder at the game.

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Marshall Activity Center at 15325 W. Michigan Ave. Tickets will be available for a $45 donation per person, $25 of which is tax-deductible.

The annual auction has been a highlight of the region’s social scene since 1990 – a much-anticipated spring get-together for hundreds of area residents, based on an expression of caring and support for the health-care needs of the community and the hospital’s patients.

“The idea is to have a great time with friends and neighbors, all while doing something terrific for the community,” said event chairman Ryan Traver. “If you want something fun to do on a Saturday night, I really don’t think you could go wrong.”

Also on the auction block is a “Field of Dreams Fantasy Camp Weekend,” including uniforms, gifts and participation in all-day weekend games at Detroit’s Comerica Park, coached by four former Tigers. The package is donated by Air-Way Manufacturing Co. of Olivet.

“This is a great cause, and it’s going to be terrific to have Dave Rozema there to stir up the action,” said William “Bill” Blank, Air-Way‘s president of finance and marketing.

Each year, generous area residents and businesses step forward to contribute in remarkable ways to make the fund-raising auction a fun-filled event, co-chair Catherine Yates said.

“A big highlight this year will be the food,” Yates said. Eight of the region’s top eating establishments will be serving their signature appetizers and “finger foods.”

The food will be dished out by Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub, Louie’s Bakery, Rollo’s Mancino’s, Broadway Grille, Zarzuela, Warman’s Party Store and Oaklawn Hospital’s dietary department, all of Marshall, as well as Pasche’s Seafood Kitchen and Redline BBQ Smokehouse & Catering of Battle Creek.

Meanwhile, live basketball will be shown and participants can join in a variety of sports-themed games. Bidders will be able to take advantage of an electronic bidding system established at past benefit auctions.

Depending on strategy and luck, someone will leave the auction with an exclusive seven-day trip to England for two people. Or a refrigerator manufactured to resemble an authentic Marshall brand guitar amplifier. Or a vintage pinball machine. Or two tickets to a home game for the Arizona Cardinals, along with hotel stay. Or a Tailgater portable satellite antenna system. Or a creative package including 300 customized adult short-sleeved T-shirts.

Sports-themed donations include a Detroit Tigers 2012 World Series street banner as well as signed memorabilia from such sports figures as Troy Aikman, Marshall Faulk, Carlton Fisk, Tony Hawk, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Ted Lindsay, Joe Montana, Cal Ripken Jr., John Smoltz, Justin Verlander and Dick Vitale.

As volunteers prepare to decorate the activity center for the evening’s fun, other auction items continue to be gathered and catalogued, Traver said – items that include dinners, appliances, specialty products, services, gift certificates, excursions and show tickets.

Information about the auction and its associated details – including a catalog of items being offered – is being updated online at

Anyone wishing tickets or catalogs may contact Theresa Shippell in Oaklawn’s Development Department at (269) 789-3942.