In the fall of 2006, as I was picking up my 2-year-old from Little Star Montessori School, with my 2-week-old strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, I was asked a question. Looking me straight in the eye and promising me it wouldn’t take too much time (ignorance is bliss), Little Star founder and director Rayma Hayes and board president Eveline Wathen asked, “Would you be willing to chair the Little Star auction?”
Ah yes, the biennial Little Star auction. If you’ve only moved here since COVID, you might not know what it is. And if you didn’t get your ticket yet, you probably won’t get to experience it this year. “We were really surprised that the auction sold out in four days!” says Executive Director Brad Halm. “In the past, it’s taken a month for it to sell out. I think there are a lot of people in our community that are inspired to support Little Star’s mission, and also really ready for a big party and gathering after going so long without during COVID.”
As Little Star’s primary fundraiser, the auction is critical to the school’s ability to serve a range of families in the Methow Valley. Public funding for early learning is limited, so Little Star must charge tuition, which only covers 80% of the school’s operating budget. Yet still many families struggle to afford the tuition, so the school offers scholarships. The auction proceeds help cover the 20% gap for all students, with additional resources for the scholarship fund.
“We know that birth through 5 years of age are some of the most important years for brain development; that’s when children are learning how to communicate, empathize, and collaborate with others; and are growing their internal drive and motivation,” Brad says. “And just as importantly, early learning programs give parents with young children the bandwidth to work, attend school, or support their own health and wellbeing.”
Brad gave me a sneak peek at some of this year’s auction donations: almost-front row tickets to the sold-out Taylor Swift concert in Seattle on July 23, a heli-skiing tour from North Cascades Heli, a three-night stay in Napa with a winery tour, a silversmithing workshop with Nicole Ringgold, and many offerings of art, food, and activities from local individuals and businesses.
The auction’s signature elements are its theme, costumes and Winthrop Barn décor. This year’s theme of “Under the Sea” promises creative potential in the apparel department. “We expect to see mermaids, crabs, seaweed queens and monsters, divers, pirates, sailors and angler fish. More unique costumes may include shark attack victims, treasure chests and costumes with political statements on the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of our oceans,” Brad says.
Auction co-chairs Alieta Gregg (who just had a baby a couple of weeks ago — what aspect of a mother with a newborn broadcasts “auction chair” to others?) and Geva McAdow and a whole host of parent and community volunteers are “working their magic to transform the Barn into a subaquatic world of wonder,” according to Brad.
The only remaining ways to take this deep-sea dive with Little Star are to volunteer or get on the wait list for a ticket. Call 509-996-2801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to exercise one of these options.
If you don’t get tickets, there’s another great option for the evening of May 20: the Shafer Museum’s presentation of “Into the Fire: A History of the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, and The Smokejumper Experiment,” about a little-known company of all Black WWII paratroopers who trained as wildland firefighters to combat Japanese balloon bombs throughout the Pacific Northwest in 1945. You’ll hear more about that presentation in the newspaper in the next couple of weeks.