When I walked into the Party City in Santa Rosa, CA., my agenda was clear –  find a massive balloon and fill it with helium. I quickly found one and paid the $4.99. I had no idea that 24-hours later someone would pay $4,000.00 for that same balloon. Before you mistake me for a sales and marketing genius, let me tell the story.

In June, the Charles Shultz Celebrity Golf Classic hired me to perform for their guests. This incredible fundraiser takes place over two days at the stunning Mayacama Golf Club, atop the mountains in Sonoma, CA.

The attendees are an eclectic mix of locals and business people along with television, music and movie stars. Over the last 15 years, the organizers have raised 4 million dollars to help support many charitable organizations in and around Sonoma County.

John O’Hurley hosts the tournament. He is a fantastic actor who is both loved and adored around the world. His credits include Seinfeld, Family Feud, Dancing With the Stars and The National Dog Show to name a few (of many).

John O'Hurley

Host John O’Hurley

My part of the golf day included a trick-shot exhibition. Having known many of the participants for years, it was going to be a reunion of sorts. It was definitely an event I was excited to be part of.

          

Whenever the event includes high profile celebrities, I generally make sure and incorporate them into the golf show. Sponsors and guests enjoy seeing these men and women up close and personal. If they perform well it brings cheers and if they fail, it brings laughs. Either way, it’s a win!

For this particular event, I decided to use two large balloons filled with helium. The plan was to attach the balloons to string while tethered to the ground. This would allow these “targets” to rise to whatever height we wanted. At that time we would do what any reasonable person would do – hit golf balls at them in an attempt to make them explode!

Line drive – direct hit – BOOM! Cheers and laughter, everything you’re looking for at a golf show.

The goal was to enlist the help of our host, Mr. O’Hurley. He and I would stage a friendly competition. He loves golf and he loves to make people laugh, so how could this be anything but a winner?

Our competition started with the balloons raised 50 feet off the ground, approximately 40 yards away. The goal was simple; we would take turns hitting shots hoping to burst our floating target.

After two attempts I broke mine (Hey, it’s what I do!!!!) but John failed to come close. Fearing a total disaster I moved his target, lowering it as well as bringing it closer. This would not only increase his odds for success but also bring the huge applause I had planned on. After several more failed attempts, I moved the balloon to waist-high and a mere 10 feet away. This brought laughs from the crowd and a renewed determination from John. His frown indicated he would not be denied.

John took a mighty swing, only to miss. Again came a swing and a miss, and then…. boom, a direct hit. To everyone’s surprise, the balloon didn’t break. The crowd roared at John’s frustrated response. Once more he hit the balloon again without breaking the thin rubber skin. No one needed to make fun of him; he was doing that all by himself.

 

Finally, a direct hit and mild explosion brought the crowd to its feet with applause and relief! With sweat dripping from his brow, John raised his arms in mock victory.

It was now time to examine the lifeless target. What?  The ball had pierced the latex and stayed “inside” the balloon. I offered it to John and he grabbed it like that elusive trophy he’d always yearned for.

I said, “We need to have you sign it and auction it off tonight”. John laughed and said, “That sound like a great idea.”

Heading straight from the driving range, I found the director of golf Ted Antonopolous. Ted is a delightful man with a quick smile, and host of the golf tournament. I told him my idea for the auction and asked if he could find an item where we could display the balloon. I said, “You know, something to make it look professional.” He assured me he was up to the task and was off to find his ark.

After the round, I found Ted to see what he had come up with for the auction. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he showed me what he had come up with. Not only did he find the perfect vessel, but typed up a “letter of authenticity” on the Mayacama letterhead. It was beyond perfect!

Letter of Authenticity

 

The balloon would now hang suspended in mid-air. It had all the makings of a legitimate trophy/auction item. (None of this is true but sounds great.)

The next stop would be the live auction. John took this “one-of-a-kind”, signed memento and hoisted it over his head for the world to see. After a detailed explanation of why this item was so unique, the bidding started. Did I mention…so did the laughter?

Within minutes the bids flew past $2000, then $3000, before finally topping out at a whopping $4000!! No, your eyes do not deceive.

A very sweet woman (No doubt a John O’Hurley mega-fan) became our new hero. This lovely woman paid a whopping FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS for a busted balloon containing one brand new TaylorMade golf ball.

Madam Awesomeness

Twenty-four hours after this “super balloon” was purchased for $4.99, it became the star of the night. There were plenty items that went for more money, but none were as unique.

Today, because of one woman’s generosity and John O’Hurley’s accuracy, countless lives are better in Sonoma County.

And….

Proudly sitting on a mantle for all to see is a deflated balloon with its fake letter of authenticity. Can you imagine the looks and questions this auction item attracts from guests? Awesome!

And that’s the story….

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