In 1986, Hagerstown YMCA officials needed to find a way to fill a $30,000 hole in their budget.
That's when former Director Frank Erck and his colleague, Howard Bowen, traveled south to get an idea from a YMCA in Virginia.
"They were raffling off a car," Erck said Saturday evening during the Hagerstown YMCA's 25th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser at Hager Hall. "We looked at the event and thought it was pretty terrific."
Erck said they brought the concept back to Hagerstown and charged each couple $200 to attend the inaugural event. For that price, participants were given dinner and offered a chance to win a Cadillac.
Little has changed since then except the price of admission, which now costs $275 per couple. And instead of a Cadillac, the grand prize winner was given the choice to drive home a Mazda 3 or a Volkswagen Jetta.
Bruce and Mary Ann Weneck were the winners of the new car, YMCA officials reported late into the evening.
Mike Flicek, executive director of the Hagerstown YMCA, said organizers hoped to raise $30,000 on Saturday. The proceeds will be used not only to send kids to summer camp, but to buy YMCA memberships for the underprivileged residents of Washington County, he said.
"We supported 1,389 (people) last year with fundraising," Flicek said. "More than half of those were children .... This is to make sure when someone comes and asks for financial aid we have the funds to do it — especially for kids."
Flicek said the Hagerstown YMCA needs nearly $200,000 to send children to summer camp each year, and the annual gala is the biggest fundraiser by far.
Fundraiser Chairwoman Ellie Doub said the amount of financial aid that people receive depends on their income. The less they make, the more they receive.
"It's a sliding scale kind of thing," she said.
The YMCA includes the grand prize automobile in the annual budget and buys it at cost from a local dealer, she said.
The winner is announced when the winning ticket is drawn late in the program.
About 400 people attended Saturday's fundraiser. Chandeliers sparkled as a jazz band played music. The women wore dresses, while the men's attire was a mix of suits and tuxedos.
"It's always been a very nice fundraiser," said Erck as he reflected on past events. "The thing is the people who come are really great supporters of the YMCA."