Above, left: Jessie Schmaltz watches the trees blow in the wind as she grasps her mother’s hand after a day at Ferndale Elementary School. Above: Kori Schmaltz checks on her daughter while she rests on her bed in the living room of their home in Milton-Freewater.
Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.
MILTON-FREEWATER — Less than a week after opening an online auction to benefit Jessica Schmaltz, the 8-year-old stricken with seizures for most of her life, coordinators said they met their goal.
“Had I known that I would be able to reach my goal in a week, I would have closed the auction earlier,” Amy White said Tuesday, noting the auction had already reached $4,089 in bids.
On Friday, the “Jessica’s Life” auction opened with more than 250 items ranging from hay to hair styling, from afghans to apple pies, from jewelry to jam.
The goal was to raise $4,000 so the Schmaltz family could by a specials needs car seat, bath chair and walker for Jessica, who is wheelchair bound and requires extensive daily care.
White, Jessica’s aunt, said her niece’s father and mother are private people and, therefore, didn’t want a large benefit dinner or other similar fundraising event. So White went online to search for fundraiser ideas.
“I was just contemplating how I could help my sister the best way … I got online and started Googling fundraising and saw ‘put on your own private auction,’” White said.
The companies offering auction services were many, and most were too expensive and geared more toward nonprofits. But White found one that cost just shy of $150 and roughly five percent of the sales. So she signed up for a 200-item auction and started asking for donations.
“I really thought when I sent out my requests to my friends and family that I would struggle to get 100 items,” she said.
What White got was 257 items, some from total strangers, most jewelry and crafts, and plenty of the type of items produced by and meant for country folk — horse massages, rodeo tickets and even two 1,300-pound bales of “hay for the herd.”
“Being from a farming culture, some of the things that we’ve gone to we have seen that before. I have seen and bid on hay,” White said.
Online fundraising auctions are not new to the Valley, and many local nonprofits have already used such events to raise money.
Even before the Internet and eBay kicked off in mid-1990s, electronic online auctions were already common through text-based newsgroups.
As for Jessica’s Life auction, it is difficult to confirm if it is the first time a local family has used an exclusively online auction to raise funds for someone in need. But what is certain is that the community has responded greatly with their items and bids to help buy three much needed things for the Schmaltz family.
“With everything we have done wrong in our lives, we must have done just enough right that when we ask for help we get it. It is an extremely humbling experience,” White added.