YMCA Gala brings suspense and generosity

February 10, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

"Molly, you won the car!" beamed Doug Schweinhart to his 15-year-old daughter on the other end of the cell phone.

The car in question was a pale yellow 2004 Volkswagen Beetle convertible valued at $23,800. Schweinhart and his wife, Sherry, along with 200 other ticket-holding couples, had paid $275 to attend the Hagerstown YMCA's 18th annual Gala Car Fund-raiser on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Four Points Sheraton - but only one ticket holder got to take home the grand prize automobile.

Attendee tickets numbered one through 200 had been placed in the raffle barrel. At about 7:30 p.m., YMCA volunteers began pulling numbers, eliminating potential winners from the contest while master of ceremonies Tom Riford announced the news. Doug Schweinhart's name was one of those eliminated.

However, guests whose names had been pulled from the raffle barrel were given a last chance to win the car by purchasing a "201st ticket" for a cost of $20. Schweinhart, along with many others who had been eliminated, took the chance.


Around 9 p.m., Riford announced the four finalists, and then conducted the drawing of the 201st ticket winner. Schweinhart's number was drawn, making him the fifth finalist.

The five front-runners haggled and bartered, trying to convince one another to sell their tickets. When competitors buy each other out, the YMCA receives 10 percent of the deal. But no one budged.

The drawing proceeded and three of the five finalists were eliminated. Left were Schweinhart and Sam Tolbert. Tolbert was representing Dr. Mary Money and Dr. Paul Waldman, who were unable to attend.

To heighten the excitement of the already intense contest, Derwood Bousum, a guest at the event, offered to pay $8,000 for one of the tickets. The sell-out crowd was keyed up and on the edge.

"I won't sell," Schweinhart said. "I'm going all the way."

When the last number was drawn, Money and Waldman were scratched, leaving Schweinhart the winner and the first ever to win via the 201st ticket.

As Schweinhart spoke with his daughter, Sherry Schweinhart made her way into the driver's seat of the Beetle.

"I don't know. I think I'm gonna give Molly the van," she said.

Sam Tolbert joked, "Doug may have won the car, but he can't shoot a foul shot!"

Mike Flicek, executive director of the Hagerstown YMCA, said proceeds from the event would be used toward youth programs and sponsored memberships for children and families. He estimated that the gala's ticket sales, program ads, donations, sponsorships and 50/50 raffle brought in about $33,000.

"That just shows the generosity of this community, and it all goes to support our youth," said the Rev. Eleanor Doub, vice president of the YMCA board of directors and chairwoman of the event.

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