It was just a plain sheet cake with vanilla icing and the curly-cue words, Hospice & Community Care.
But someone bid $600 for it, then promptly gave it back and instructed that it be sold again to raise more money for the vital community service.
And so it went. The cake was sold six times — two people bought it twice.
Several hundred people sweltering inside the Solanco Fairgrounds in Quarryville Monday erupted in applause when the bids reached more than $1,000 — for a cake — and cheered again when the final bidder instructed that it be eaten by hospice nurses.
In the end, the cake brought $6,100 to Hospice & Community Care to help them continue to provide medical, emotional and spiritual support to individuals and families who are coping with a fatal illness.
That kind of spirit — gratitude for understanding care in tough times — dominated the organization’s two-day annual Labor Day weekend auction.
No wonder a record $760,000 was brought in at the 34th auction, held Saturday and Monday. Last year also set a record at $740,000.
The record giving came, in part, through auctioning off some 6,000 donated items that ranged from a Christmas trip to New York to a bamboo pillow to socket sets to quilts to a decked-out, shimmering black buggy — buy your own horse.
Many of those attending have had their lives touched by hospice and were there to give back in some way.
Through the years, hospice has made the end easier for six relatives of Tammy Distasi, 53, of Lancaster.
“I think it’s the nurses. They’re dealing with death every day but they make that person feel special to the end,” she said.
Some give back by paying more than they should for something they really don’t need. For others, it’s volunteering over the two days.
More than 500 volunteers help the auction run like a well-oiled machine. About 100 of them are Amish, who increasingly use hospice care.
Food, a major draw at the auction — shrimp fries is a crowd favorite — is provided by Amish.
On Monday, Leroy Riehl, 33, of Caernarvon Township, arrived at 5 a.m. with nine other family members to help out with a soft pretzel stand. He wanted to have sandwiches ready for other workers when they arrived.
“It’s definitely a good cause,” said Riehl, who has used hospice for relatives. So has his wife.
“It’s kind of a day where we can give back to the community, really.”
Hospice helped Rose Gibble say goodbye to both her parents. Now, the 72-year-old resident of Brethren Village in Lititz donates every year and attends the Labor Day auctions.
“They do it with dignity,” she said appreciatively. “They try to make their last week, months or year of their life good for them. They die with dignity.”