September 29, 2011 in Washington Voices

Annual fundraiser raises $8,649

Event benefits juvenile diabetes, food bank
By The Spokesman-Review
Jill Barville photo

Singer Michael Dwyer performs at an annual fundraiser at Arnie Saddler’s home in Spokane Valley Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

In Arnie Saddler’s south Spokane Valley neighborhood, everyone knows the last weekend in September is going to be fun. That’s when Saddler throws an early Octoberfest party and auction fundraiser for a local charity.

Last Saturday, as the sun dipped in the sky, cars lined her street for several blocks. The sound of acoustic guitar, harmonica and Michael Dwyer’s signature folk-rock voice blended with laughter and the hum of conversation emanating from Saddler’s front yard.

“I’m a one-on-one person. I’m not a crowd person. I do like parties though,” said Saddler, shaking her head as guests kept coming, filling the tables in the driveway, mingling around the silent auction items in the garage and spilling into the house, backyard and onto the street.

Saddler has thrown a fall party for eight years. For the first few, she took items she didn’t want and wrapped them as door prizes. When guests kept raving about her party favors, Saddler decided to turn them into a fundraiser.

“I said, ‘I should make them pay,’ ” she said with a laugh. Each year she picks a new cause and each year the party and fundraising gets bigger. They’ve donated to Spokane Guilds’ School, for a neighborhood child who had cancer and for cystic fibrosis. This year Saddler selected the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as the beneficiary.

Cathy Nolte arrived on Saturday wearing a “team Sarah” shirt in honor of her 9-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes 18 months ago.

“This is incredible. I can’t even say how much this means. She’d already chosen JDRF when I started dating her son Jake. It was a cause that didn’t affect her personally,” said Nolte, her voice trailing off as her eyes filled with tears. She took a breath and continued. “Arnie sees how Sarah has to test her blood 12 times a day and stop swimming to do insulin. This is such a blessing.”

Saddler had hoped to raise $5,000, beating last year’s record of $4,300. They crushed that goal, raising $8,649 for JDRF and donating several hundred pounds of canned goods to the food bank.

“I’m overwhelmed that people would do this at my little house, that they would come and be so generous,” said Saddler. “I have amazing friends and family, and I love making people happy. I feel like I’m sending out my love when I help people.”

Longtime friend Paula Jeffries said she’s attended since the first party. “Arnie is a true inspiration. Every year she brings more and more and gives more and more. To me, we are so blessed with family and friends we need to give back.”

Guests bid on 15 live auction items and 75 silent auction items, primarily themed baskets that Saddler creates from donations she gathers throughout the year. Choices included eight hours of handyman services, wine and chocolate, an original painting by Debbie McCulley or a stay at the Oxford Suites attached to a set of king-size sheets.

“The community is so supportive,” said Saddler. “I went to businesses and asked for donations and nobody turned me down.”

Last year Saddler began taking donations for this year two days after the party. “I store stuff in this little, tiny room I call my ‘for-now’ room. I put it there for now,” she said, describing how it was so full by summer she could barely walk in it.

Many donations are gently-used items that she or her friends want to pass on. She mixes these with new items and gift certificates from area businesses and wraps them in attractive baskets. “Most of that stuff is stuff people didn’t want. Send it my way and I’ll make it look pretty,” she said.

To hold all the donations and food, the Saddlers borrowed 10 tables and 40 chairs from Ness Elementary School. “It’s not enough,” said Perry Saddler as he served a guest a helping of bratwurst and sauerkraut. “We don’t know how to judge it.”

More than 150 people came this year to eat, greet old friends, meet new ones and, most importantly, to give back.

Diane Knowles said the biggest reason she and her husband Pat come is because it’s for a good cause. “And the food is incredible, and it’s always fun,” she added.

Arlene and Frank Koth said they’ve attended for the past three years. “These people are wonderful,” said Frank. “And it’s a good cause. It’s a fun fall thing to do.”

“We look forward to it,” added Arlene. “Arnie is a big-hearted person to go to all that work.”

“We’re just ordinary people that have enough and want to give back,” said Saddler, her voice catching with emotion. “We love people and we like parties. I’m overwhelmed at the turnout, overwhelmed at the money we brought in.”

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