BY JEFF FALK
There’s a reason ‘taking it one game at a time’ has become a trite, over-used expression. It rings true becasue it’s an effective approach. It works.
If one doesn’t look too far ahead, focuses on the here and now, the future will simply take care of itself.
Twelve years ago, when Lebanon native Tom Gerhart initiated his sports memorabilia auction, he had no idea it would grow into what it is today. He was so busy on getting his vision off the ground, he just didn’t have time to think about the next one – or the next one.
“The first year, the second year, I had a lot of energy, doing something new,” said Gerhart. “I was trying to make a statement. After the first year, I realized it was a lot of stress, a lot of work. I did doubt that this was something that could continue, because of the work. I’m very grateful and very thankful for the people who have stuck with it. I’m hoping it can continue, with or without me.”
Gerhart, the owner of Gerhart Financial Services and a former professional football player with, among other clubs, the Philadelphia Eagles, uses his connections and influence in both the sports and financial worlds to acquire valuable items, mostly autographed and from prominent athletes and coaches. Then he gathers people who share common bonds – an interest in sports, a desire to make Lebanon a better place to live and a respectful dislike of cancer.
This year’s auction will be staged at Marabelle’s Restaurant, on West Cumberland Street in Lebanon, on Saturday, April 14th beginning at 5 p.m. All proceeds from the event will go to local families who have been directly affected by cancer, as well as the Lebanon County office of the American Cancer Society.
“It makes you feel good,” said Gerhart, who lost his mother to cancer in the late 1990s. “I’m just a part of it. There’s a lot of people who participate. It’s more of a ‘We’ thing. Over the years there have been a lot of people who have stepped up. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun.
“Over the years it has become easier,” Gerhart continued. “Early on it was more difficult. And then all of a sudden it became easier because people jumped on board. I hear people say, ‘Yeah, I lost my mom.’ Or, ‘Yeah, I lost my dad.’ Cancer does not discriminate. For me, it’s a way to keep her (his mom) alive in me.”
This year’s acution will feature numerous cool items, including – but not limited to – a professionally framed John Elway autographed football jersey and photos, an autographed Peyton Manning football jersey, an autographed Wes Welker football jersey, an autographed Joe Namath football, two autographed Philadelphia Eagles’ helmets, one by Desean Jackson and one by Laseason McCoy. Also available will be baskets including gift certificates to area restaurants and local golf courses.
“Let’s just say, ‘Hey, we have a lot of items (over 100)’,” said Gerhart. “We’ll do the best we can. Whatever it raises is fine. There’s really no goal (financially). That way no one gets disappointed. Any money you raise is good.”
Last year’s auction netted $15,000 for cancer victims, while the most any of Gerhart’s auctions had pulled in was $20,000. In its 12 years of existence, the sports memorabilia auction has hauled in an eye-popping total of $150,000.
“There was a time when I didn’ know if this could continue, as much as I wanted it to continue,” said Gerhart. “But then we partnered with the Palmyra/Hershey Sertoma Club, and not only has it continued, but it has gone to the next level.
“The common denominator was that we wanted to benefit cancer victims and cancer survivors,” Gerhart added. “When you start talking to kids, you realize that not only are kids affected but also entire families. It puts things in perspective.”
But his association with the Palmyra/Hershey Sertoma Club wasn’t the only relationship that Gerhart has fostered through the auction.
“There have been so many neat acquaintances,” said Gerhart. “Sometimes people will stop by your office and you don’t even know who they are, and they don’t know who you are. Doing the auction brings people together. Everyone involved with this has a big heart. You’re trying to help as many people as you can, but you’re also making yourself feel good.”
The items that will be available for auction can be viewed on Gerhart’s website www.gerhartfinancial.com.
“The idea is to make it as easy as you can so it can survive,” said Gerhart. “It’s about the community. It’s about getting a lot of people involved. It takes the effort of many.”