Student Spotlight

Two NY brothers support COVID-19 relief through baseball card auctions

After returning home to New York from Philadelphia at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were acutely aware of the damage caused by this debilitating virus, given that New York was widely regarded as the “epicenter” of the American coronavirus outbreak. Each day we would read in the morning newspaper about the rapidly increasing numbers of New York COVID-19 cases reported, followed by the seemingly mandatory viewing of the daily televised updates provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo shortly thereafter. Despite our desire to make a difference during those dark times, it was hard not to feel powerless in the face of an event of this magnitude.

However, a spark of inspiration struck one evening in early April, as we saw on Twitter that Boston Red Sox reporter Chris Cotillo was raising funds for a number of charities in the Boston area through baseball card auctions. We’ve been fortunate enough to amass a collection of over 10,000 baseball cards over the years, and we felt there was an avenue to enact positive change at the local level and beyond by auctioning our own cards in support of COVID-19 relief. After reaching out to Chris and planning logistics for several weeks, we launched our Twitter page, @CardsforCovid, at the start of May. The response that followed exceeded our highest expectations. 

Over the course of the following month, we conducted nightly auctions to raise funds for causes contributing to those in need during the pandemic, including food banks, charities and hospitals, from New York to California. Along with each card posted on our page, we included an auction starting bid, end time and a charity to which the proceeds from the bidding would be designated. Once the highest bidder was named, they would then send us a copy of their donation receipt, and we would send them the card. Our packages shipped across the country, from as near as the tri-state area to as far as Hawaii. 

We found tremendous joy in actively engaging with a community of baseball fans who embodied benevolence and generosity. Throughout the month, we arranged fundraising evenings for the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Backpacks For The Street in New York; hosted a one-night grand finale of over 50 auctions; and were even retweeted by Larry the Cable Guy. Each night would throw its own exciting curveballs while the bidding proceeded, so much so that one of our most frequent bidders had commented, “It was like watching live sports.” Ultimately, we managed to raise over $10,700 in support of COVID-19 relief, holding more than 300 auctions for more than 85 different causes.

In reflecting upon this experience, we are profoundly grateful for all involved in making it a reality. From our parents, who were the reason we were able to run this fundraiser in the first place, to all those who supported us through donating and spreading the word about our cause, it was truly remarkable to see a community emerge around assisting others, and even more inspiring to see the work being done across the nation to help during this pandemic. These efforts were being conducted not only by national organizations and renowned hospitals, but also by smaller-scale groups that we came to grow particularly fond of, including Coalition for the Homeless, Open Door Mission and Backpacks For The Street. 

What started as a simple idea fostered out of a desire to do good blossomed into an incredibly meaningful and memorable experience that we will never forget. As the world continues to endure this pandemic, we hope that the selfless spirit that permeated throughout this process transcends beyond the bounds of card auctions and into all of our daily lives. 

~William Manolarakis, Pennsylvania ’21, and Alexander Manolarakis, Drexel University ’23

William & Alexander Manolarakis

William Manolarakis is a dental student at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his brother, Alexander, are from New York and love the people, food and sense of community there. They started collecting baseball cards around age 12.

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