The 39th annual St. Jude auction is well underway, and with so many different things to choose from and chances to donate, this year is a little different.
Instead of the normal playhouse built by the Minden Fire Department, two campers are being raffled off with a loving touch from people all over the country. Jenny Mourad, playhouse chair, said she got the idea to build campers from looking for one for her.
“I just got the idea that that’s what I wanted to do for my last year as playhouse chair, because they are still playhouses,” she said. “You can still put it in your back yard, or you can hitch it to your truck or car and you can take it anywhere you want to go. The appeal was not only for children but for families.”
And at first, Minden firefighters weren’t too keen on building a camper, but it was because they had no idea how.
“They had a cow, and one of them actually fell out of the chair,” she said, laughing. “They said, ‘We don’t build campers.’”
In her quest to find her own camper, she ran across CH Campers in Chickamauga, Georgia. The firefighters advised her to see what it would take to get Jerry Ragon, owner of CH Campers, to build one. One camper shell costs approximately $10,000, and they just couldn’t afford that, Mourad said.
She called Ragon, and within an hour, he returned her call and said he’d build two for less than the price of one.
“I had to hang up the phone I was so taken aback by his generosity,” she said tearfully. “So I looked at the firemen and said, ‘Now all you have to do is build the inside.’ They were cheering. They were so excited because they didn’t have to build the outside.”
Fast forward. Now she and the fire department have two campers coming – one for a boy and one for a girl.
Both came equipped with heat and air conditioning, working vintage appliances and a myriad of donations or discounted items and services to finish out the two campers in time for the auction.
“I’ll never forget what they’ve done for the auction,” she said.
The boy’s camper is outfitted in a “cabin style,” with bunk beds, a table and wraparound booth, a vintage refrigerator, microwave and cabinetry. The bunk beds are adult twin size beds, and are made of willow oak. It also touts a John boat removable dining table.
Most of the interior was done by the Minden Fire Department, making sure Mourad’s design ideas were “carried out to a T.” She said they always make her design work, no matter what she asks them to accomplish.
For the girl’s camper, or Glam/Glamper, it is a little girls’ dream. Inside the pastel pink, white and glittery room, a bunk bed with curtains, satin coverlet and throw pillows adorn one side, while a classy dining area adorns the other. It too has a vintage refrigerator, microwave and cabinetry.
Laurie and William Sigler, of LaurieAnna’s Vintage Home in Canton, Texas, designed and donated the décor in the girl’s camper. Mourad said the couple also offered the auction the opportunity for presales through their store’s website, which enabled the auction to start off with more than enough money to pay for both campers and anything that had to be purchased for them.
This will be Mourad’s last year as playhouse chair, and as she hands the reins to Laura Spillers and Haley Robinson, she says it was an honor to be involved in such a special cause.
“I fell into this not knowing how much my life would be blessed,” she said. “All the friends I’ve made, and all the money we’ve raised – we’ve raised a lot of money in five years with these playhouses. It’s been an honor for me. I can’t thank everybody enough for the support they’ve shown (St. Jude). A lot of people have to be involved and it’s always at the last minute.”
Everyone in this city is involved in some way, Mourad said. The Mourads raised their children in Minden and they have been participating in the auction since they were small.
“I have friends who’ve had children go through St. Jude,” she said, “and I’ve always loved children. It has just been a good fit in my life. I wanted to do my part to give back for everything they’ve done for so many other people. It takes this kind of thing to keep the hospital going.”
Raffle tickets for each camper are $10. To purchase one, go to the auction, call in at 377-1100 or go online at www.mindenstjude.com.
Tickets for the grand prize – a 2015 GMC Denali or $50,000 cash – are sold on the Internet, by call-in and mail-in. In addition to the grand prize, the Partner In Hope memberships and all raffle items may be purchased online.