Casper takes mic for needy in North Kitsap

POULSBO — Besides his furry red hat and jovial smile, Doc Casper doesn’t look very much like Santa Claus.

But to hundreds of families across North Kitsap each year, he’s at least the next best thing.

For 19 years, Casper and a group of elves at the Trolls Den at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway Lodge have been holding a little-known auction to benefit Kingston’s ShareNet Food Bank. But while they may not get a lot of publicity for their actions, they know they make a big impact on their community.

“It’s become a holiday tradition for me,” Casper said. “This really gets me in the Christmas mood because it really is better to give than to receive.”

This year’s ShareNet auction at the Trolls Den took place Sunday and raised $3,400. While it may have been a little bigger and made a little more money than 19 years ago, Casper said the heart of the event has never changed.

In 1985, Casper was on active duty at Subase Bangor. Every so often, he’d drive from the base to Poulsbo after work for a cocktail at the Sons of Norway’s Trolls Den. The trip always took him through the Poulsbo Projects. Though today the area is the immaculate Poulsbo Place, 19 years ago, it was run down and poverty-stricken. On one of these drives during the holiday season of 1985, the sight was too much to bear.

“I started thinking about the kids growing up in there,” Casper said. “They didn’t ask to be born where they were. I wondered what Christmas would be like for them.”

When Casper reached the familiar crew at the Trolls Den that night, he continued to talk with people about it. Then one of the bartenders, knowing Casper was part of a local band, challenged him to do something about it.

“So we got it together in about two weeks and that first year I think we made $1,100 or $1,200,” Casper said. “Every year, it’s gotten a little larger and a little larger.”

Because the Sons of Norway Vikings support Fishline’s backpack drive each summer, the organizers decided to spread the support and chose ShareNet in Kingston as their beneficiary. The first few auctions included entertainment from Casper’s band, but as the event grew, so did the need for room for auction items. Today, the event includes a toy drive, food drive and auction.

In its biggest years, the auction has netted about $5,000 or $6,000. But Casper said he never sets a fund-raising goal because he wants it to simply be a fun time and for everyone involved to walk away feeling like they accomplished something.

Besides, he knows how much impact any amount they raise can make for the small social service organization.

“I remember when I handed the director a check for $5,000 she was in tears,” Casper recalled of one year’s donation. “The toys, the food and the money. It all goes a long way.”

The auction is supported mostly by donations from Sons of Norway members, who save up items all year round to bring in. Some are second hand, some are brand new, others seem oddly familiar.

“Things come back,” Casper said with a laugh. “I remember we once had this (lazy Susan) that was brought in 1988 and that thing came back eight times in a row. I haven’t seen it the last few years so the last person who bought it must really like it.”

But over the years, the event’s small band of organizers has found quite a few business supporters as well. Donations to this year’s auction included Liberty Bay Auto, Blue Heron Jewelry, Central Market, Hearts and Homespun and The Nordic Maid.

Serving as the auctioneer, Casper often has crowds in the Trolls Den in stitches as he roams the audience looking for bidders — often calling on people to make an offer. And everyone knows not to raise a hand or even scratch a nose unless they want to be a bidder because Casper will volunteer them. It’s these fun and games that has kept a loyal auction following coming back year after year to shell out money for a worthy cause. But Casper takes little credit for the 19-year tradition and the good it’s done.

“The only reason this auction works is through the people who come out every year,” Casper said. “But I always tell them that for the grace of God go us. I know the money we raise goes to people in need and I hope I’ll never be on the receiving end.”

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