BAR HARBOR — About $300,000 of the total amount Friends of Acadia (FOA) raised during its virtual benefit auction Aug. 8 will go into a special fund, the Acadia Resilience Fund, to help Acadia National Park develop innovative programs and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The example we featured in a short video was how the park can continue to connect with young school kids in Maine and beyond,” said FOA President and CEO David MacDonald.
“Fall is when we typically have hundreds of school children coming on field trips to the park, but that’s not going to happen this year because of the pandemic. So, the park came to us with a concept they are calling Mobile Ranger Studios. Rangers will have cameras and tablets and iPads and other good equipment to be able to bring the park to kids, whether they are in a classroom or studying at home.
“That’s exhibit A in how we would like to provide some quick, flexible funding to the park to help them offer some new options to kids, in particular, to keep them engaged in the park.”
MacDonald said the total amount raised during the FOA benefit is still being tallied. But he said the level of participation exceeded expectations.
Typically, the FOA benefit is held under enormous tents on the lawn at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor. A sit-down dinner is preceded by a cocktail hour and silent auction and followed by a live auction and “paddle raise” bidding, which benefits a specific Acadia project. Then there is live music and dancing.
A maximum of 500 tickets are sold, and it is always a sellout.
This year, since there was no in-person event, there was no charge for “attending,” and MacDonald said about 700 people registered to participate.
“We had more people register than ever before, and we had more people bidding in the silent auction, which was open for a week, not just a few hours,” he said.
“That shows that we have a very supportive community that loves Acadia National Park,” MacDonald said. “Even when they can’t get together for a fancy event, they’re there to support the park.”
FOA reported in an online newsletter to members that 164 individuals placed a total of 472 bids in the live and silent auctions.
“We didn’t raise as much money in the live auction as we have in the past, but we really put the emphasis on the paddle raise,” MacDonald said.
The paddle raise is typically conducted at the end of the live auction. As the auctioneer calls out dollar figures, guests raise their bidding paddles to indicate they pledge to give that amount.
“That’s a straight charitable gift, as opposed to bidding on and buying something,” MacDonald said.
He said about 115 people participated in the paddle raise, an all-time record.
Last year, the paddle raise brought in about $300,000 for the restoration of Acadia’s historic carriage road bridges.
This was FOA’s 31st annual benefit event and the first one to be held virtually.