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Students bid to dine with campus celebrities

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Thursday, February 28, 2013

More than 25 Notre Dame celebrities are on the menu tonight at Breen-Phillips Hall’s 29th annual Meal Auction, where students can place bids for a chance to dine with illustrious campus figures such as Irish football coach Brian Kelly or basketball coach Mike Brey, among others.

One of the hall’s signature events, the live and silent auctions will benefit Meals on Wheels, a charity with which Breen-Phillips has had a long relationship, hall president Allison Behrndt and auction coordinator Jaclyn Winkel said.

“In [Breen-Phillips], we’re always talking about community and fostering that sense in our dorm,” Winkel said. “Meals on Wheels reaches out to community members who might otherwise be forgotten, so that same sense is there.”

Winkel said a wide array of prominent campus figures will participate as auction prizes, including student body president-elect and vice president-elect Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce, finance professor Carl Ackermann and psychology professor Anre Venter, as well as members of the Notre Dame men’s basketball and track and field teams.

“Basically, we’ve contacted a bunch of campus celebrities and cool professors, and they agreed to have a meal with the highest bidder,” Winkel said. “People can come and bid per plate, and if you win you get to go out to dinner or have a home-cooked meal with the person.”

Breen-Phillips president Allison Behrndt said bidders can expect great experiences with all the “menu items” but recommended that Irish athletic fans consider the offers from Kelly and Brey.

“Coach Kelly always does a meal with the football staff, and he usually gives the people who win a bunch of issue gear and autographed items,” Behrndt said. “Brey also sets up a meal, and that’s always popular.”

Winkel said the dinner with Kelly typically raises the most money of all the individual auction items.

“Sometimes, people pay upwards of $100 for Kelly,” she said. “He usually takes about two or three people, and last year he gave them a tour of the locker room, too.”

With far more bidders than prizes, students bid per plate so groups can share the cost of a ticket item, Winkel said, and auction participants may choose how many people they will take and where they will eat.

“A few guys from the baseball team said they’d take people to Brothers [Bar and Grill], and some basketball players are doing a meal at McAlister’s [Deli],” Winkel said. “Professor Venter is taking six to eight people for a home-cooked South African dinner at his house, so there are a lot of different choices.”
Behrndt said the event is a great way for students to connect with high-profile campus figures in a relaxed, personal setting.

“I think the best aspect [of the auction] is giving people the opportunity to interact with people they normally wouldn’t be able to meet, like the coaches,” Behrndt said. “It’s great that students can share a more intimate meal with their professors, which they probably wouldn’t have the chance to do otherwise.”

The auction committee decided to host the event in the Burger King lounge to attract more traffic from passersby and increase student awareness of the cause it supports, Winkel and Behrndt said.

“We made a few changes to the menu and location basically to encourage greater audience participation and to make it more of a campus-wide event,” Behrndt said.

Winkel said students are encouraged to drop by and bid spontaneously on the people that pique their interest.

Gift baskets and restaurant gift cards will be offered during the silent auction in the Sorin Room of LaFortune Student Center from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. The live auction will occupy the Burger King lounge in LaFortune tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at ajakubo@nd.edu