By Lynne Hendricks Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — It’s not many kids who can hop a ride to school in a Ferrari.
But yesterday morning as her classmates took their usual seats on the same, rumbling yellow school buses, Maria Hogan started her day in style.
She pulled up to the Rupert A Nock School in a shiny black Ferrari, cashing in on a prize won at last year’s Newburyport Education Fundation Lighthouse Auction fundraiser.
A ride to school in a Ferrari will once again be among the prizes in this year’s NEF auction. The public can get its first glimpse of the hundreds of items up for auction this year when online bidding begins tomorrow. The auction event is set for Nov. 10.
Sure, the annual auction is all about raising money to provide rich educational opportunities for Newburyport students. It raised more than $50,000 last year and enabled the NEF to install Wi-Fi capability at Newburyport High and Nock Middle schools.
But there’s plenty of luxurious opportunities to be had as well — all in the name of supporting the cause.
They run the gamut from a private helicopter ride and a rooftop, riverfront dinner party for 40 to a football jersey signed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and a plum parking spot at the G.W. Brown School. For the adventurous, the auction features weekend and weeklong trips to out-of-the way places like the Bahamas and Tahoe and getaways closer to home like New Hampshire and Vermont.
“We have so many great items this year,” auction organizer Rosemary Turgeon said.
Now in its fifth year, the Lighthouse Auction has raised $180,000 for Newburyport schools, with the numbers soaring last year with the introduction of the online bidding feature.
“It allowed us to reach so many more people,” Turgeon said.
Even if you can’t get a babysitter, get called away on business or just feel more comfortable shopping at home in your pajamas, you can participate in the auction. There are even some “online only” items up for bid, offering people the added assurance they won’t be outbid when the party moves over to the Masonic Hall at 31 Green St. on Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m.
However, the biggest auction items will require you to grab a bidder’s paddle and take part in the live auction, emceed by local business owner and Zero the Hero personality Rob Ouellette.
“One of the most exciting options was given to us by David Hall at The Tannery. He has donated the rooftop above Brown Sugar restaurant,” Turgeon said. “He’s given us two nights – one night during Yankee Homecoming for the fireworks. It’s the perfect vantage point.”
Hall has also donated the same riverfront space for a second evening, this time for a dinner for 40 catered by Michael’s Harborside and featuring the music of Newburyport saxophonist Danny Harrington. Hall is also providing a four-person party at the top of the historic Newburyport Lighthouse on Water Street.
For those who look forward to a home-cooked meal with all the fixings, NEF board member Cindy Johnson, School Committee member Nick deKanter and Bresnahan Principal Kristina Davis are all hosting dinner parties at their home for lucky bidders,
Claude Elias of Oregeno’s in downtown Newburyport is also hosting a dinner at his house as well as donating a pizza party at the new brewery opening on the waterfront, where he and brewery owner Chris Webb will offer a tasting and a tour, Turgeon said.
Other slightly off-the-wall, but seriously fun items include a whoopie pie-making class at Chococoa in The Tannery and the service of two bartenders, Keith Walsh and Sean Harrington, for your next house party.
According to Turgeon, parents will be delighted to find their children have donated prizes as well. Many classrooms are decorating and designing signature art pieces for the auction block. Teachers have gotten in on the act too, with sixth-grade teacher Kyle Hildebrand offering a private batting lesson and seventh-grade teacher and surfing enthusiast John Reynolds offering to teach a lucky winner how to catch a wave New England-style.
There will also be gifts donated by downtown merchants, who generously provide to the auction every year, Turgeon said.
Turgeon said she expects the event, which will feature both silent and live auctions as well as a raffle, to be a raucous, but good-natured affair.
“I think it’s a really fun night out,” she said. “Some people hesitate to go to these things because they don’t necessarily want to spend the money, but it does turn into a really fun night out. People are friendly bidders — they’re fun about it.”
Starting tomorrow, all of the prizes will be posted online at www.newburyportef.org/auction. Tickets to the auction, which will feature a cash bar and complimentary appetizers, are $20 in advance, $30 the day of the event. In addition, raffle tickets for the chance to win a choice of a Kindle Fire, iPad2 or iPhone 5 are also on sale for $5 each or five for $20. Tickets as well as more information are available online.