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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Professor Severus Snape (AJ Lorenzini) talks about his potion samples to guests Saturday at the third annual Harry Potter-inspired “Return to Hogwarts” fundraiser at the Salvation Army on Clinton Street.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Guests enjoy Saturday evening’s cocktail and the “No Muggle Hour” at The Salvation Army at the Masonic Temple.

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:00 am

Nonprofit hosts Potter fundraiser

Salvation Army sees lower turnout caused by winter weather

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Even an evil spell of snow couldn't keep about 600 Harry Potter fans from attending the Salvation Army's annual fundraiser Saturday.

The local nonprofit pre-sold 1,000 tickets to the midday event, which included magic classes, an escape room, a costume contest, a trivia competition, various “magical” animals and more.

That was followed by a formal dinner in the evening with silent and live auctions. Organizers sold 275 tickets for the evening event. Both were sold out, raising more than $30,000.

This year's fundraiser was the fifth Hogwarts-themed event staged by the Salvation Army since fall 2016, according to Jama Smith, the local director of resource development.

“The community just loves it so much,” she said.

More than 1,200 volunteer hours went into preparations, including making large banners for each Hogwarts house, creating handcrafted magic wands and hanging twinkle lights along the hallways.

“It's my first,” said Major Geffory Crowell, officer in charge of the local Salvation Army. “It's much more than I imagined.”

Organizers emphasize the need to reuse and up-cycle donated goods because every dollar not spent on the event can be funneled into programming. Money raised is all spent locally for services including an after-school mentoring program, rent and utility bill assistance, a food pantry and a community youth program.

The first year's event raised more than $100,000, Smith said. She estimated this year's total might be closer to $40,000 to $50,000 because of bad weather.

Smith said tickets were sold to some people living in Chicago, Indianapolis, Kentucky and other areas before the snow persuaded them not to travel.

The fundraiser charges admission, but each activity also assesses a fee. Fewer people through the door means fewer extra dollars collected.

Kiersten Mieritz, a volunteer, sat in small room designated for Owl Post Packages. For $5 each, people could mail an acceptance or rejection package.

The acceptance letter, on “official” Hogwarts stationery, included a list of books and materials incoming students would need and a train ticket for the Hogwarts Express in the fall.

“The older kids like to send a rejection letter to their friends,” Mieritz said.

Mark Kohlhorst, of Mark's Ark in Auburn, brought ball python and corn snakes, ring-necked doves, hedgehogs, chinchillas, African toads and other “magical creatures” for visitors to hold and cuddle.

Waits for those and other activities were relatively short because of the smaller attendance, Smith said.

Rory Sweet, 10, stood in a short line for a tattoo of a sorting hat or other Harry Potter-inspired symbols. Her Hermione Granger costume included a long, Gryffindor coat and a striped tie.

Rory, who lives in Howe, started reading the series of books a year or two ago and just finished the fourth one. Given the choice, she'd want a potion that would allow her to transform into other people.

“I think it would be fun to have powers,” she said. “It would be easier to do things.”

Her grandmother, Mickie Sweet, might like the power to drive safely in snow. The Michigan woman was anticipating a long trip.

Despite the weather, Sweet was glad they came.

“They've done an incredible job,” she said of the organizers. “The detail of the different shops – the animals and the volunteers acting like the characters.”

The Welch family also explored all things Potter on Saturday.

Ethan, 11, and Oliver, 8, attended with their parents, Scott and Tara. Both boys are big fans of the books, although Oliver said he'll wait until he's in fifth grade – or older – before actually reading them.

Ethan and his mom read all the books together when he was in third grade. His fondest wish would be to have a magical power that could get him out of washing the dishes.

The visit was an adventure for the foursome.

“I didn't think we were going to get out of the escape room,” Tara Welch said.

“We were in there a good 15 minutes,” Ethan added.

Anna Nagle, a biomedical engineering professor at Indiana Tech, has read all the J.K. Rowling-penned books multiple times. She attended the fundraiser in a Ravenclaw cardigan of medium blue accented with gray and white stripes. She also sported a large, white bow in her hair.

She and her husband have visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. It's nice, she said, to have a Hogwarts-themed event closer to home.

Nagle, who has been married 11 years, admitted: “I've been into Harry Potter longer.” But, she quickly added of her husband, “I didn't know him yet!”

Just then, her cellphone rang and Nagle was called into action to help her beloved husband. The problem? He'd misplaced his magic wand.

As the afternoon event wrapped up and Smith thought ahead to the evening's formal affair, she pondered a puzzle that not even Harry Potter has likely encountered.

“I wonder,” she said, “whether I can fit snow boots under my ball gown.”