Thanksgiving Day annual Brunch Bunch auction in Kent attracts hundreds, raises tens of thousands

Nov 24, 2017 | News

Written By: Jim Mackinnon
Published By: The Akron Beacon Journal

KENT: Mike Beder said it’s been quite awhile since he’s swung a golf club.

Nevertheless, the Kent restaurateur and entrepreneur successfully bid $800 in the Brunch Bunch annual charity auction Thanksgiving morning for a lesson from local golf pro and 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis.

“I haven’t golfed since 11th grade,” admitted Beder, 40, who owns Tree City Coffee, Water Street Tavern and other Kent businesses. In full disclosure, Beder said he is friends with Curtis and called it “added value” that his winning bid meant Curtis lost a bet and had to pony up an additional $500 charitable contribution.

Beder was among hundreds of people who turned out for what was the 49th Brunch Bunch charity auction, held in the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. Beder said he’s been attending the Brunch Bunch fundraiser in Portage County for 10 years.

“It’s a fun event,” he said.

Others at the auction noted that the Brunch Bunch has come a long way since its informal start 49 years ago.

That’s when three local men ducked away from Thanksgiving preparations in their homes to meet for breakfast at downtown Kent bakery Hahn’s Fine Foods. The men, Richard “Moose” Paskert, Jack Urchek and Larry Sisson, improvised a fundraising event there that day, taking in about $235 from other patrons. They donated the money to the Hattie Larlham Foundation.

The three repeated the Thanksgiving Day fundraiser for years — and it has since grown into an event that now raises about $50,000 in three hours’ time.

This year’s proceeds go to Kent Social Services, Center of Hope Hot Meals and Pantry Programs, the Ben Curtis Family Foundation and Coleman Professional Services Adult Day Program.

People paid a $3 admission, which entitled them to Tree City Coffee, doughnuts, pastries and cider as they took part in the event. Among the items auctioned off this year were numerous gift baskets, a Goodyear blimp ride, Cleveland Indians tickets, golfing accessories, basketball items, children’s toys and more.

Taya Hamilton was excited at making the winning $650 bid for a wooden gift box holding bottles of high-end whiskies and other spirits.

“The box is super cool,” she said. “We come every year.”

Her father, Scott, said participating in the auction is one way his family gives back to the community for the help they received after his son, Adam, was killed in 2011 while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

“We’re going to give money no matter what,” Scott Hamilton said. “It’s such a good cause. … We’re here to help.”

Also among the bidders was Neal Pridemore, the hotel’s executive chef.

“I come every year,” he said. “It’s a great time. I’m looking for something for my [5-year-old] daughter.”

Pridemore said this was the first time in 10 years that he has had Thanksgiving off — and, yes, he was going to make scalloped potatoes, his own version of a green bean casserole, plus cheesecakes to bring to family meals later in the day.

Michelle Hartman, Brunch Bunch chairwoman, figured at least 300 people were going to participate this year, with all proceeds going to charity.

“What’s cool is, we have generations here,” Hartman said. People who took part in the charity auction 40 years ago now attend with their adult children and their grandchildren, she said.

Her daughter EmiLee, 19, was among the successful bidders.

“The first thing I got was this comforter,” EmiLee pointed out. She figured she had spent $380 winning several items. “We plan on spending more,” she said. “I’ve been here since I was little. I’ve always been involved.”

Golfer Curtis said he and his foundation have participated in the Brunch Bunch for at least five years.

“It’s a great fundraiser,” he said. “It speaks volumes of the people of Kent. It’s a unique event to do on Thanksgiving.”