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  • Writer's pictureValpo Surf Project

The Big Manzana

As we do every year, we started our summer event calendar with a silent auction in New York City. For the uninitiated, NYC is not simply an overwhelming concrete jungle or the home to our nation’s most hated baseball franchise, it is both of those things, and home to a vibrant community of friends who support us year after year. Go Red Sox! Some of these friends have been with us from the very start, attending our first event and, in some cases, travelling to Chile to lay the groundwork for our program, while others have joined the family over the years. It’s humbling to see the growth of our network and the dedication each individual brings to the table; they have donated art, experiences, items, their time, graphic design expertise, boundless enthusiasm, connections, food, etc. This year was no different.

A few weeks ago, we hosted our NYC silent auction at Based-In, a coworking and event space in Chinatown. The event space is accessed by a particularly old and rickety elevator, making for a rich cultural experience, to put it one way. We set up a bar area, various tables for auction items, and an area to project our student testimonials and display program information, but aside from that, the space had that cool-industrial-minimalist vibe going on. Our CEO, Wiley Todd, has adopted a similar dress code in recent months, so the space felt aesthetically fitting.

Has Valpo Surf Project ever been more New York than that? I doubt it.

Our sponsors provided an excellent assortment of food and drink to keep everybody satiated throughout the event. Sierra Nevada provided three beer varietals, while Gosling’s Rum slung everyone’s favorite nautical beverage, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Cafe Un Deux Trois, a New York establishment, supplied delightful French hors d'oeuvres and Los Andes Bakery brought the Chilean flair, offering empanadas and other typical treats. Unfortunately, Chile’s humongous hot dog varietal, the completo, was not in attendance, but sent its warmest regards. While we hope that altruism and that warm fuzzy feeling are the biggest factors drawing people to our events, without these wonderful offerings, the event might have felt like a strange social experiment. We can’t do what we do without these sponsors and hope they know how much we appreciate their contribution!

Woah, that's one giant hand

Just about 75 people attended the event, rolling in throughout the night. Many of them directly contributed to the silent auction or supported us in the planning process, so the shared energy of the effort was palpable. Wiley and Jamie Lunt, a long time friend of the program who graciously received and inventoried all of our auction items, kicked off the night with brief speeches about the evolution of our program and the general layout of the space. We then played a few student testimonials, which are particularly meaningful to our NYC friends, who first saw our kids nearly ten years ago. It’s easy to forget how much a young adult can change in that length of time and heartwarming to know that we’ve been there every step of the way.

Speech! Note: Tristan is back there chilling in a palm tree

This year’s silent auction was particularly noteworthy for art donations; we had paintings, prints, and photos from a large contingent of local artists and several from the west coast. Art and surfing clearly complement each other super well, as many of these pieces reflected the artists’ love of the sport and the sea in general. It was really fun to meet many of them in person at the event, as nobody can communicate this relationship and process better than the artists themselves. These surfers/artists are often some of our biggest advocates in this sense, as they understand the benefits the sport has brought to their professional lives and the ways in which it facilitates other pursuits. While most of our students probably won’t pursue art professionally, they will utilize the sport as a source of inspiration, relaxation, and personal growth throughout their lives.

Long term friends of the program with Andreea Waters (center), an NYC based photographer and videographer

In addition to this artwork, we had a lot of contributions from local businesses, friends, and family, including: athletic tickets, trips, workshops, exercise classes, gift boxes, surf related items, jewelry, and clothing. As the event occurred just two days before the final Game of Thrones episode, a GoT subscription box from Culture Fly was a particularly sought after item. Diehard fans vied for the metaphorical throne on that bid sheet, jostling for the t-shirt, coasters, blanket, and other knick knacks contained within that treasure. And you call yourself a fan? In all seriousness, it was amazing to see so much support from friends new and old and to have such a wide variety of items from diverse sources. The auction exemplified the way in which collaboration and community building have been and will continue to be fundamental values to our organization.

"Waves and Wine" in B&W

To boot, we had a $6,000 matching campaign, making it our most successful NYC event to date. Our team and, most importantly, our kids are so lucky to have such a supportive and caring network to rely upon year after year. This network is the backbone of our organization, allowing us to continuously mentor our student communities in Valparaiso. The NYC event will allow us to continue our regular English classes, beach and neighborhood cleans, workshops, and, of course, weekend surf sessions. Even as the water grows colder and colder each week, our kids continue to be absolutely stoked to get in every Saturday and have all of you to thank for that. We’ll be hosting different events throughout the summer in various locales, so stay tuned in to learn about those. We hope to see you there!

As always, if you can't make it to an event, donations of any amount can be made throughout the year via our website or our brand new Venmo account (@Valpo). Absolutely any support, big or small, makes a huge difference in the lives of our kids!

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