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Rotary Club of Big Sky starts 2015 with a bang

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By Maria Wyllie
Explore Big Sky Associate Editor

BIG SKY – The Rotary Club of Big Sky recently held two of its biggest events of the year within a two-week span.

The 11th annual Gold Auction – a gala fundraiser to support local, regional and global humanitarian efforts – took place Jan. 23 at Buck’s T-4. The event included a silent auction, dinner, as well as a chance to win $2,000 in solid gold and $500 in silver.

Capped at 200 tickets, this year’s event sold out for the first time, and raised between $18,000 and $20,000, according to Rotary Club of Big Sky President Grant Hilton.

Hilton says the funds raised at the annual Gold Auction are the club’s primary source of funding. The money will be used to support a broad range of causes in the new fiscal year, which beings July 1. On a global level, the club is investing in a project drilling water wells in Honduras, as well as Rotary International’s Polio Plus Campaign, which aims to eradicate polio.

Every year, Rotary of Big Sky also supports the Big Sky School District by sponsoring three students at Lone Peak High School to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awareness camp in Livingston; contributing to the annual LPHS trip to Washington, D.C.; sponsoring the George MacDonald Memorial Scholarship Fund; and donating thesauruses and dictionaries to third and fourth graders.

The group has also contributed to a number of local groups, including the Big Sky Food Bank and Eagle Mount. For the new fiscal year, Hilton says they are hoping to provide funding for local student Dasha Bough’s community beautification project, in which electric boxes will be wrapped in artistic, vinyl anti-graffiti wraps.

A week after the Gold Auction, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7, the Big Sky Rotary Club hosted 105 Rotarians, from seven different countries, for the International Skiing Fellowship of Rotarians. The group meets once a year, alternating between the U.S. and other countries. This was the first time it was held in Big Sky.

During their week in Montana, the group visited Yellowstone National Park and made a trip to Bozeman, where they toured the city and visited Eagle Mount-Bozeman – a nonprofit dedicated to providing therapeutic recreational opportunities for people with disabilities and young people with cancer. They also had a shopping day in Big Sky’s Meadow Village and Town Center, and outings where they could go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

“It’s not just about showing them the mountain,” said Big Sky Rotary President Grant Hilton. “We also want to introduce them to the community. They were very appreciative and several [members] told me it was the best one they had ever been to.”

On Feb. 5, silent and live auctions were held during the farewell gala dinner. Half of the proceeds were earmarked for future ISFR events, while the other half was donated to Eagle Mount-Bozeman. Approximately $10,000 was donated to the organization, as well as funds to purchase a new sit-ski.

Rotary Club of Big Sky’s next event is their international evening in Big Sky on Feb. 22, in the Mammoth Room at Big Sky Resort, where Rotarians host dinner for the international students working in Big Sky.

“One of the main goals of rotary is to build understanding and peace between citizens around the world,” Hilton said. “This is an opportunity for us to get together with young people from different countries.”

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