The track was clear and the weather was fair for the Hillsdale College Women Commissioners inaugural Charger Derby. Held Nov. 2 in the Searle Center, the fundraising event raised roughly $100,000 for student scholarships and attracted 255 guests for an evening of simulated horse racing and a silent auction. The Women Commissioners hosted the virtual derby in lieu of their annual rummage sale, which was last held in 2017 and was their biggest fundraiser for years.
They were delighted with the turnout. The event drew guests from near and far, both friends of the college and people from Hillsdale County, decked out in derby dress. Many of the ladies wore flamboyant hats and headpieces and several men sported dapper details, including a horse-motif bow tie. One couple came costumed as a horse and jockey.
Event proceeds will go to the Women Commissioners scholarship endowmentt which funds general, music, journalism, leadership, and academic scholarships and a general scholarship granted on the basis of financial need.
Beginning at 7 p.m., guests mingled throughout the Searle Center, visiting the cocktail bar and snacking on mini tarts, bite-size burgers, shrimp skewers, and other gourmet finger foods.
Dozens of silent auction items were displayed around the room, featuring donations from local businesses and national brands. Offerings included two handmade Adirondack chairs featuring the Charger logo, a “mystery surprise ball” wrapped in red cellophane and gift certificates for local businesses.
President Larry Arnn volunteered his time for “Cigars, Cognac, Churchill & Larry Arnn: An evening with Larry Arnn to discuss all things Churchill,” and William Broadbeck, chairman emeritus, and his wife Janet donated a John Railing magic show hosted at their home.
Art faculty provided their work, including Samuel Knecht, lecturer in art, who donated a painting, and Barbara Bushey, professor of art, who gave hand-painted scarves.
An M1 Concourse 4 tour, and Los Angeles Angels club-level seats were also available.
An app allowed guests to bid remotely from their phones, opening the silent auction to event attendees and out-of-town participants alike.
The silent auction generated $42,000 of the event’s revenue, with each item receiving nine bids on average.
Dressed in blue shirts, current recipients of the Women Commissioners scholarship volunteered to assist with running the event. Jaime Boerema, a junior, said she was happy to help.
“We’re really grateful that the Women Commissioners want to give back to campus and have blessed us personally, and we want to contribute back to that tonight,” she said.
Black and white checkered tablecloths, red roses, and imitation trophies adorned each table, and a dozen colorful jockey suits and hats, painted by Janet Brodbeck, lined the stage.
Just before 8 p.m., a bugler played the “Call to Post” to commence the virtual horse races. Judy Gabriele, Director of Development at Hillsdale Hospital and a member of the Women Commissioners, delivered opening remarks.
“Our work is noble, and I wish to thank each Woman Commissioner here tonight,” she said, noting that over the past 40 years, the Women Commissioners have raised $4.2 million for scholarships.
And then it was off to the races. Footage from a dozen past horse races projected onto screens beside the stage, with a live master of ceremonies providing commentary. Guests bid on one of the 10 horses in each race, placing their votes in buckets at the front of the room.
“You may have to jockey for position to see your horses,” said master of ceremonies Steve Cox, who came from south of Pittsburgh to host the event.
Guests watched the screens intently as horses with names such as Hill Filly, Mr. Markethouse, and Commissioner’s Winner galloped counterclockwise around the track. William Broadbeck dubbed his horse No More Rummage, a nod to the erstwhile rummage sale.
Between races, bids from the silent auction were displayed on the screens and the master of ceremonies read quotes from recipients of Women Commissioners scholarships.
“Hillsdale is the best decision I’ve made and the Women Commissioners made it possible,” one read.
Elli Leutheuser, ‘51, said she was pleased with the event.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “It looks like everyone is having a good time.”