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  • John Farrow


The Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston’s annual auction is one of the longest running Rotary fundraising events in Kingston. Since 1998, 23 auctions have generated $500,000. All funds raised go directly into projects to help the Kingston community and communities around the world.

Before 1998, another local service club had hosted a TV fundraising auction for several years, but decided it was time to switch to other fundraisers. Our club stepped in to fill the void and the first Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club Christmas Auction was held in December that year. Televised on local cable channel 13, the auction started small with about 200 gifts. Rotarians became TV hosts and managed the phone banks. Bids received from callers were transferred onto pieces of paper and pinned on a bid board. Pretty low tech!

As technology evolved over the years, the auction process was streamlined. A Rotarian from Barrie offered auction software to speed up bidding and do away with a mechanical bid board. Rotarians still took bids over the phone, but entered them into a computer, which also served as the timekeeper cutting off bidding at the exact moment that the time expired (sometimes mid-phone call).

Another big change was the move to the local TV Station CKWS-TV and the introduction of auction sponsors to help pay for airtime. Seasoned TV personalities like Jackie St. Pierre and Julie Brown hosted alongside Rotarians, and public service announcement segments were added while bidding was underway. This helped our club increase awareness about Rotary and the good works of our club.

The auction continued to grow with more gifts coming in every year, but our club faced a major challenge a few years later when CKWS-TV announced it would no longer be a CBC affiliate. This meant that our early December Sunday auction date would be in direct conflict with CTV’s Sunday afternoon NFL Football, a battle even Rotary couldn’t win!

The decision was made to switch the auction to a completely online bidding platform. CKWS-TV came through as well. Although the television broadcast was gone, the station hosted Cataraqui Rotarians on Bill Welychka’s Daily Show the week before the end date of the auction. Bill interviewed Rotary Youth Exchange students, grateful grant recipients, and Rotarians speaking about what we do for the community and the world.

When the close date was moved to November, the auction was rebranded as the Cataraqui Rotary Club Community Auction and the auction’s new tag line became “Bid to Give” to represent the direct connection between bidders and donations to projects. In the auction’s 20th year, a milestone was passed for the first time – over 500 gifts were donated.

The Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club is indebted to all our bidders, item donors (some of whom have been with us for all 23 years), auction sponsors, and Rotarians who have helped make this annual event our most important fundraiser.

Watch for us again this year in November and remember: Bid To Give.

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