Heimdal Science Fiction charity auction resumes after COVID hiatus | Local News

After a two-year absence due to COVID-19 concerns, the Heimdal Science Fiction charity auction is resuming in downtown Lynchburg.

Heimdal Science Fiction auction 2

Guests look at items during the 2019 Heimdal Science Fiction charity auction.

provided photo

The community-oriented organization consisting largely of Star Trek fans is celebrating its 38th anniversary as a local chapter of Starfleet International, and is holding its 15th annual charity auction Saturday in downtown Lynchburg at the Lynchburg Grand Hotel at 601 Main St., according to president Linda Smith.

Doors open for the event at noon, and the auction will begin at 1 pm

Money raised through the auction will support the Heimdal Science Fiction’s charitable community endeavors, including Christmastime donations to nine local charities, and sponsoring a local middle school student to attend NASA’s six-day space camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

The auction fundraiser began in 2006, Smith said, after the organization obtained its nonprofit status. Although the chapter is part of a larger organization, Smith said members decided to become an official nonprofit so they might do more for their community in tangible ways, particularly through fundraising and charitable donations. As such, it is somewhat independent.

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“We’re really community oriented,” Smith said.

Given the group’s science fiction theme, with a particular emphasis on Star Trek and outer space, sponsoring a local middle school student to attend the NASA space camp program was a natural fit.

Smith described this sponsorship as “the biggest thing we do, and the thing that gives us the most rewarding feelings.”

Students from eight participating local middle schools are invited to submit an essay to Heimdal Science Fiction expressing their interest in attending space camp, or related camp programs offered by NASA. An 11-person committee reviews each submission, and selects one middle schooler to sponsor. The $1,100 tuition fee is fully covered by the organization, plus an additional $300 for the family’s travel costs and another $100 to buy a flight suit for the student. In total, the sponsorship represents about $1,469, Smith said.

Witnessing the effect this opportunity has on local children has been rewarding for Smith and the group to see.

Peter Garrison, who just graduated from high school in Amherst County, went to space camp courtesy of Heimdal Science Fiction in 2018, Smith said. Garrison was accepted to Alabama State University — located in Huntsville where space camp also is held — and he intends to major in aeronautical engineering with the goal of becoming an astronaut.

“He is the second student that has won our space camp contest that says that going to space camp has been a pivotal part of their lives in making their decision to do this,” Smith said, referring to Garrison.

The other student who attended space camp went in 2016, and now is studying aeronautical engineering at Virginia Tech, also hoping to become an astronaut, Smith said.

Yet another previous winner was a girl from a family of five, according to Smith, who said that with so many siblings, space camp would not have been affordable for the family without Heimdal Science Fiction’s sponsorship.

In 1999, Heimdal Science Fiction raised enough money to send two students from Linkhorne Middle School to space camp. However, when camp tuition fees increased significantly, the costs no longer could be supported by the bake sales and car wash fundraisers the group had done previously, Smith said. Over the next 10 years, the organization brainstormed the auction initiative and pursued official nonprofit status to help in obtaining donations. Since 2009, at least one area middle schooler has gone to space camp every year, Smith said.

Additional money raised through the annual auction supports Heimdal Science Fiction’s Christmas charity donation to nine local organizations, including the Free Clinic of Central Virginia, Gleaning for the World, Lynchburg and Amherst Humane Societies, and buying gifts for three senior citizens through Home Instead, and three angel tree children.

Lynchburg-area businesses have donated about 250 contributions for the auction, including restaurant gift cards, home goods, an infrared grill, hotel stays for a short getaway, a drone, tickets to Luray Caverns, various collectibles, assorted baskets and much more that auction attendees can bid on this Saturday.

Local businesses have consistently been supportive of the auction and consequently area residents, according to Smith.

Carl Davis, the auctioneer and long-time member of Heimdal Science Fiction, has filled the role of auctioneer and co-vice president for years.

“It all started out when my wife and I were looking for something outside of the church,” Davis, a retired Southern Baptist pastor, said. “Most all of our activities are related to the church. We’ve been Star Trek fans forever, and just decided we would see what was going on with this local group. We enjoyed the meetings, and having the same interests and being able to reach out to some other folks in the communities and in the area.”

At regular meetings, guest speakers give presentations on topics related to science, fiction and/or the famed combination of the two: sci-fi. Additional community involvement includes various outreach missions or promotional events that frequently involve Star Trek costumes, according to Smith.

“Sponsoring these charities, and especially space camp, is such a positive thing, and such a positive thing for these kids that win,” Smith said.


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