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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bachelors on the auction block

Male sale to benefit Health Care Access

June 15, 2005

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Go ahead and treat Dave Gillette like a beefcake - he doesn't mind a bit.

Especially if it's for a good cause.

Gillette, 42, is one of 11 men from Lawrence, Topeka and the Kansas City area who will participate in the third annual Bachelor Auction Thursday at JB Stouts Sports Bar & Grill, 721 Wakarusa Drive.

The event is a fundraiser for Health Care Access, 1920 Moodie Road, a nonprofit agency that serves Douglas County residents who lack medical insurance.

It'll also be the second time Gillette, of Lawrence, has allowed himself to be put on the auction block for charity, in front of a throng of screaming female bidders.

That includes a turn parading around on the bar (yes, ON it) so the assembled women can assess his, um, virtues.

"I was a new guy (at the auction) last year. My friends told me - gullible as I am - that I had to take off my shirt because that's the way they do it. I didn't know any better; I thought that's what you were supposed to do. The crowd went crazy," says Gillette, operations manager for Aqua Sprinklers.

"I was like I was a piece of meat up there. It was a really good time."

Gillette was eventually "sold" to a 37-year-old schoolteacher from Topeka for $275 - all of which went into the coffers of Health Care Access.

"The best part of it is watching everybody else get auctioned off. You try to make them feel at ease, with all the women yelling and screaming. Last year, we had to prance around on the bar until they got done talking about you," Gillette recalls.

Was he nervous about being scrutinized - and then sold - before such an estrogen-fueled crowd?

"Oh yeah, I had to have six beers before I got up there the first time."

The auction is open to the public. Anyone who buys a ticket - $7 in advance, or $10 at the door - can attend and bid on the men.

'High-quality' guys

The event is all in fun, but it actually raises a serious amount of money for the 17-year-old agency.

The clinic, which has a staff of seven people, has an annual budget of about $300,000. Roughly half of that comes in the form of grants from the city of Lawrence, Douglas County, the state of Kansas and the United Way.

The other half comes from various fundraisers, such as the bachelor auction, donations and other grants.

The clinic does as much as it can with the money it gets, serving the one in 10 people in Douglas County who don't have health insurance.

"Last year, with our $300,000 budget, we were able to leverage $1.7 million in in-kind services for the patients," says Nikki King, the clinic's executive director for the past seven years.

The auction's purpose is twofold: It's designed not only to raise funds, but also to get the word out about the clinic's mission.

"It's a whole different audience to raise awareness about what we do, kind of a younger crowd that is looking to get involved in the community," King says.

All it takes is persuading a group of prospective bachelors, who are typically friends (or friends of friends) of clinic staff.

Bachelor auction

What: Third annual Bachelor Auction fundraiser for Health Care Access

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, preview; 8 p.m., bidding

Where: JB Stouts Sports Bar & Grill, 721 Wakarusa Drive

Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at door

Ticket info: 841-5760 or healthcareaccess.org

"They're a little nervous at first. Once I give them the details of what they're going to do, they're willing to help a good cause and put themselves out there for us," King says.

Last year's auction raised more than $3,000.

"Our highest bid the first year was actually $450. He was the final gentleman up on the bar. All these guys are high quality - they're good looking, they've got good jobs. ... Any one of them would be great to bid on," she says.

Men plan date - and pay

Bidders at this year's auction will have plenty of high-quality guys to choose among.

There will be 11 men, ranging in age from 24 to 50, employed in a variety of professions: police officer, lawyer, investment adviser, real estate developer, doctor, software salesman.

Eight of the 11 are from Lawrence. Two are from the Kansas City area, and one is from Topeka.

The bachelors are responsible for coming up with the chosen activity for the date with their winning bidder, as well as footing the bill.

"The men pick the date. You bid on the man, and the man picks what he's going to take you to do," says Karin Feltman, who was master of ceremonies at the first auction.

Feltman, a 37-year-old nurse in Lawrence Memorial Hospital's emergency department, also ended up making the winning bid ($250) on a date with one of the men.

"I just thought he was kind of cute, and I was having fun. He seemed like a nice guy," she says.

"Somebody said, 'Can you do that?' And I said, 'Hey, it's for charity - I can do what I want.'"

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