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TMP auction goes above and beyond expectations

By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
dobrien@dailynews.net

A 1979 graduate of Thomas More Prep, Kent Hirsch said he likes to buy raffle tickets every couple of years for the school’s Auction for Christian Education.

“A good cause, a good donation to make,” said Hirsch, who attended TMP as a resident student from Colorado and now is a business owner in Longmont, Colo.

This year, it turned out to be better than just a donation for Hirsch when he sent in his $200 order. Tickets for the car raffle were $100 each or three for $200.

At the annual largest fundraiser for the local Catholic high school — which has consolidated with Marian High since Hirsch’s days in Hays — one of the three tickets with Hirsch’s name on it was pulled out April 28 as the winner of a 2012 Ford Fusion donated by Dick and Kay Werth from Auto World Used Cars in Hays.

“My wife wanted me to do the cash prizes,” Hirsch said of the packet of options he received in the mail from the TMP Alumni Association. “But I thought it would be fun to do the car. I was joking the week before the auction we were going to win the car.”
It turned out to be no joke.

“Then they called Sunday afternoon,” he said. “Were we ever surprised.”

The raffle tickets for the annual ACE brought in a whopping $81,335, helping break the total amount record set a year ago. This year’s total for ACE was $392,000, more than $50,000 above last year’s final count of $340,470.

But the one item that brought in the most ever for a single item was No. 60, which seems to gain more popularity each year.

This year, that item — designated for uniforms and equipment for the new TMP-Marian junior high school — raised $103,700.
When it came time for item No. 60, everyone took notice.

“We were keeping tabs,” said Wanda Billinger, president of the TMP alumni association. “When it went over ($100,000), I cried when it got to that point.”

Billinger said Bill DeWitt, principal of the TMP high school and junior high, was hoping to get at least $40,000.

“He said, ‘We’ll take whatever you give us and be grateful,’ ” Billinger said. “It shows that people are pretty passionate about this junior high.”

After Hays USD 489 voted last summer to close Kennedy Middle School, one of two public middle schools in Hays, after this school year, TMP started work to raise money to start a Catholic junior high.

The Thomas More Society was established to fund the junior high, and about $2.5 million was raised in 10 months time.

Item No. 60 at ACE traditionally is designated for some type of improvements or equipment for Hays Catholic Schools, and this year DeWitt decided to target uniforms and equipment for the new junior high as the recipient of money earned for that item.

“We’re starting some programs from scratch,” DeWitt said of the junior high.

“There are some items that can be passed down, but not a ton,” he said, listing things such as uniforms for athletics and band and athletic equipment and band instruments.

“On the (inexpensive) end, it was going to be about $60,000,” he said. “So we thought if we could raise $50,000, that would be a very good start.”

What happened at ACE was a very good start, with a capital V.

“It just reaffirms what we’re trying to do here, that people want this to be successful,” DeWitt said. “It solves a lot of problems for us, helps us build an inventory. To get what we did was unbelievable, just unbelievable.”