Fort Hays State University’s athletic department knew it was going to be a big night after approximately 450 tickets were rapidly purchased, making this year’s sixth annual Tiger Auction a sold-out event.

The fundraiser, which was Saturday evening, is the biggest one of the year for the department and is a way for the community and Tiger athletic supporters to come together for one cause.

“It’s really turned into quite an event; we sold out of tickets this year quicker than we’ve ever sold out,” said Matt Cook, assistant athletic director of external operations. “It’s a good thing for our school, the athletic department and the community.”

Significant planning and preparation goes into making the large fundraiser possible, with committee meetings typically starting in the spring, according to Cook.

“We have a lot of businesses and contacts each committee member goes out and talks with — asking for donations every year,” he said. “It usually goes very well, and everyone gets really excited about it.”

A total of 315 donated items were collected to apply toward this year’s auction, which raised $205,397.

Guests flooded into FHSU’s Memorial Union Ballroom to get a jumpstart on the first part of the evening — dinner and a silent auction.

Three tables in the silent auction featured 217 items including autographed jerseys, season tickets, hotel stays, wearables and more.

After the silent auction tables closed and guests began to finish dinner, the live auction excitement began, with bids climbing for items including a FHSU ping-pong table, a queen bedroom set, various electronics, paintings and more.

Alex Schmidtberger, a linebacker on the FHSU football team, addressed the crowd on behalf of the university’s athletes.

“This event is huge,” he said. “This is how we get our nice facilities and everything to train in so we can be our best when the season comes around.”

There were 98 total items in the live auction, with opportunities to walk away with big-ticket wins such as spa packages, vacation getaways, furniture sets and autographed memorabilia.

Victoria resident Shelly Huser said her family donated beef toward the auction items.

“We were here last year and wanted to come back,” she said. “There are so many people that come, and there is a lot of money raised for the athletes. It’s pretty cool.”

Helping out with the raffle items, FHSU sophomore and cheerleader Lauren Oldham said she was inspired by the community’s gracious giving and generosity.

“I think this event makes a huge difference for us,” she said. “I know quite a bit of the money goes toward scholarships, and as a student, you understand scholarships can be life-changing.”

FHSU President Mirta M. Martin said she, too, was overwhelmed by the generosity and believed the event spoke volumes about the Fort Hays family.

“This is about investing in the athletes of our university,” she said. “The fact that everyone has come out to support Fort Hays State University means the world to us and means the world to the athletes.”