The Bids For Kids Dinner and Auction will again cast a vivid spotlight on the RV industry’s philanthropic spirit, as business rivals unite to help keep the doors open and broaden the program selection at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Goshen, Ind.

Under the keen oversight of Jason Lippert, CEO of Lippert Components Inc. parent Drew Industries Inc., the event continues to eclipse previous highs for donations. And when area and industry supporters gather on May 7 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart for the 16th edition of Bids for Kids, organizers are looking to extend that trend.

“It’s pretty amazing how things have spiraled in the past several years,” said Michilah Grimes, former director of special events at the Goshen facility who now heads up philanthropic partnerships for Lippert. “Every year we have raised more money than the year before, and by a significant amount. We have a loyal corps of supporters in the community, but the RV industry has pushed us over the top. Their support has been instrumental in the event’s success.

“It’s so important because Bids for Kids accounts for around 75% of the annual budget,” she said, adding that 1,100 kids come through the doors annually including 51% with at least one parent working in the RV industry. “We are not only able to fund costs for running the facility – which are substantial – but also continue to build our selection of programs for the kids. We have wide variety of choices including art, health and fitness, a garden club – a lot of things that have been taken out of the school budget.”

Grimes noted that the Bids for Kids event drew a record crowd in 2015, packing the Hall’s Northern Indiana Event center with more than 700 attendees. “We were at capacity, so we are expecting around the same number this year,” she said. 

Bids for Kids will again adopt a fast-moving agenda, as the silent auction will be conducted simultaneously with a catered dinner and cash bar provided by Ruth’s Chris Steak House Steak House. The live auction, which featured 56 items last year, will follow and include:

• VIP tickets to the Ellen DeGeneres Show in Los Angeles.

• VIP Experience for the 59th GRAMMY Awards.

• Four second row tickets to Adele Center Stage.

• Walk the Red Carpet and attend the Jason Bourne Premiere.

• South African Adventure for four.

• Design a date in another city with a private jet. 

• Four sixth row tickets to Coldplay.

• Yacht around Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Over 700 people gathered last year at the RV/MH Hall of Fame. (Photo by Bruce Hampson)

More than 700 people gathered last year at the RV/MH Hall of Fame (Photo by Bruce Hampson)

Lippert said, “The quality of the auction gets better every year – better items and a higher concentration of people that can participate. The objective of the auction obviously is to raise money for the club, but Bids for Kids is also about educating people on the vital services that the Boys and Girls Club provides for the community.”

Lippert stressed that an integral part of the auction’s success is channeled through the contributions and input of the Bids for Kids headline sponsors, which include Lippert Components, Consolidated Metals Inc., Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Genesis Products Inc., Welch Packaging Group, People Link Staffing Solutions, Furrion, Wildman Business Group, and Superior Steel Supply LLC. Lippert added, “There are around 40 additional mid- and high-level sponsors that the event depends on.”

Dovetailing with the Bids for Kids fundraiser, last October Lippert issued an “RV Challenge” asking industry leaders to fund a $2.5 million share of a $9 million capital campaign for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, which oversees four facilities along with a KidsCare program. Setting the bar at $2.5 million, Lippert reported that the goal had been reached, adding, “Of course there were other generous donors contributing to the overall campaign, but the RV industry really stepped up.” 

Lippert, who first got involved in the club nine years ago and has served in several capacities, related that his commitment to “giving back” has also been instilled in the culture and core values at Lippert Components. 

“Bids for Kids is important, but the bigger project for me, and our company, is to push our people to get involved in some shape or form in a community project,” he said. “We want our people to tap into their passions and help others, particularly our management. It’s certainly not mandatory, but it is a high priority.

“I feel like we’re setting an example for other companies as well, and we’re seeing a lot of leaders in the industry get involved. How impactful would it be to get all the managers and employees in all the RV companies involved in community help projects? The RV industry is filled with very generous people and I feel like Bids for Kids is the perfect vehicle to show how they can connect and make a difference.”