Tanya Skelton loved the quilt that Connie Stover made for the Skelton Brothers Reward Fund auction. It featured pictures of Tanya’s three missing sons, along with some scripture.
Little did she know, that quilt would soon be hers.
“The committee was trying to figure out how to get it to her,” said Jan Mohr, chair of the reward fund committee. “We talked to the auctioneers about it. Tanya was unaware that any of this was happening.”
About an hour into the evening, auctioneer Shane Sumner introduced the quilt to the audience of several hundred people by saying that it was up for auction, but that it was going to go to Tanya when the bidding came to a close.
“The electricity in the room was amazing,” Mohr said. “The bids started flying.”
It came to an end with Jeff Chittenden offering the final bid of $1,000, and applause broke out in the bleachers. Tanya wasn’t the only one crying at that point—the highlight of the night.
After the final sale of the night was recorded, the reward fund had swollen by more than $34,000.
“It was phenomenal,” Mohr said. “People are so generous.”
The quilt sale was one of two things that touched Mohr the most. The other also involved a quilt.
Maggie Yates of Oakshade made a hand-stitched quilt that took two years to create and earned second place at the large show at Sauder Village.
”She was looking for a really good cause to donate it to,” Mohr said, and she chose the Skelton fund-raiser. It brought in $900, just before the Stover quilt was sold.
“I was very touched and humbled,” Mohr said.
Buyers came from a large area, as determined by Morenci mayor Keith Pennington in his introductory remarks. It was Pennington who organized the reward fund in December, a few weeks after the Skelton boys disappeared.
The mayor reminded the crowd that the fund was established to pay for tips that would lead to the return of the boys and the successful prosecution of those responsible. A large reward could be paid or several smaller ones. The committee would make those decisions.
He got the crowd ready for action by asking them to make some noise if they were from Fulton County, then Hillsdale, Williams and Lenawee. He determined the person traveling the furthest came from Florida.
Pennington welcomed Tanya’s extended family and told the crowd he expected them to have a good time.
“I know you, as the audience, want to give the family permission to have a good time as well,” he said, and the response was enthusiastic.
Finally, he reminded the audience they were about to participate in a charity auction and they should bid without thinking about whether they could buy an item $5 cheaper at Wal-Mart.
“I think overall people had that mindset and many items went far higher than retail value,” Pennington said later. “I spoke with several people who said they came intending to spend a certain amount of money regardless of what they went home with.”
And then the bidding got underway.
Mohr noted that Tanya’s mother, Bev Zuvers, bought a certificate allowing her to speed around the track at Michigan International Speedway.
“When Shirley Vanderpool saw that, she bought the other one,” Mohr said, thinking about the women having fun on the track.
“We had such a diverse set of items,” she said, “and every donated item had a story behind it, it meant something to the giver.”
In addition to the generosity of the buyers, Mohr praised the many volunteers who worked together to make it a success.
School facilities engineer Tim Kruse was phenomenal, she said, and Dean Frisbie of Pioneer was very instrumental in collecting donations and making arrangements with the auctioneers.
“There were many hands working together,” she said. “It was just refreshing.”
Proceeds from the auction topped $34,000, but other donations were also placed in the fund.
“Once we decided to have the auction,” Mohr said, “people would just hand us cash.”
A large amount of money came in before the auction night arrived.
Pennington said the reward fund now has $44,196 in the bank. An additional $10,000 was pledged for the return and recovery of the boys and $5,000 was pledged for information leading to the discovery of the children’s whereabouts.
Any funds remaining after the case is closed will be used in three ways: playground equipment for Morenci Elementary School and for Wakefield Park, and for the Morenci Education Foundation.