Autograph collection to be auctioned off to buy exercise gear

Whether you are a fan of supermodel Cindy Crawford, celebrity chef Paula Deen, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis or Royals Hall-of-Famer George Brett, there’s a piece of memorabilia with their autograph on it going up for auction.

For more than five years, Free State High School physical education teacher and volleyball coach Nancy Hopkins has been collecting autographs to raise money to buy exercise equipment for the school.

The auction is from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 20 at Royal Crest Lanes, 933 Iowa.

Hundreds of autographs — many on photos, books and sports gear — will be up for sale in live and silent auctions. The event also includes bowling for $10 with proceeds going to the school’s cardio center.

In an effort to curb child obesity, Hopkins has been piecing together a cardio center at Free State High School for the past few years. Her vision is to create a place where students can take exercise classes or work out after school.

So far, she has raised enough money to purchase spin bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and other pieces of equipment. But she would like to see the center expand and has a wish list that includes $70,000 worth of equipment.

“My motivation is just trying to get kids to be active,” Hopkins said of the project. “I’m trying to reach kids who won’t get exercise elsewhere.”

Through local connections and writing campaigns, Hopkins has gathered autographs from across the world and from all kinds of celebrities.

Thanks to a German exchange student, she has an autograph from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a former volleyball player was able to score a signed drumhead from Bruce Springsteen.

Other notable auction items include an autographed George Brett jersey and a photograph of Yoko Ono and John Lennon signed by Ono and an engraved iPod with the message “Imagine Peace, Love Yoko.”

For tennis lovers, one package includes autographed books by Billie Jean King and Boris Becker and autographed photos from Björn Borg, Rod Laver and Margaret Court.

“We’ve received things from all over the world,” Hopkins said.

The auction will also have thousands of other autographed books from all genres. Hopkins hopes people will buy these books and then donate them back to local schools.