HAMMOND | There will come a day when multiple sclerosis appears only in medical history texts.
Until that day, the Halpern family and the employees of Albert’s Diamond Jewelers will wage a battle a find a cure for this chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. On Sunday, the 10th annual MS Auction hosted by Albert’s at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority Indiana Welcome Center raised more than $100,000 for that fight.
“I’m very blessed to have an amazing team that puts this together. They contribute their time and efforts. I’m very lucky,” said Josh Halpern, owner of Albert’s, which has stores in Schererville and at Southlake Mall. “We have 20 percent more items (for the auction) than last year.”
One hundred percent of the money raised at Sunday’s auction goes directly to the National MS Society, Josh Halpern told the more than 400 people attending the event.
This battle is personal for the Halpern family because Josh’s mother, Donna Halpern, 66, was diagnosed with MS at age 31. The annual auction fundraiser was started by Fred Halpern, who bought Albert’s Diamond Jewelers in 1960.
The MS auction and personal family donations have totaled more than $500,000 to find a cure for MS. This achievement will be recognized Nov. 7 in Denver when the Halpern family is inducted into the National MS Society Volunteer Hall of Fame.
“I’m so lucky. I’m so much better than a lot of people with MS,” Donna Halpern said as she greeted well-wishers as the live auction continued well into the evening.
“Everybody has a disease. This is our disease,” said Fred Halpern.
“We try to create something. It’s all voluntary and we have so much support. She must be some kind of woman,” he said of his wife.
MS diagnoses are increasing in the Midwest, said Maureen Reeder, National MS Society vice president of the Midwest Region, and many of those at the auction know someone with the disease.
“My mother has MS,” said Don Gaza, who drove from New Buffalo to attend the auction.
“I’m doing some early Christmas shopping,” said Gaza. “It’s a great cause.”
Bonnie Tuck, of Highland, bid on a pair of earrings.
“I wanted to contribute to the MS Society because I have MS,” she said. She was diagnosed five years ago. “I bid on these earrings for me.”
Her husband, Keith, said the auction was a way “to do something for the cause.”
Sheila and Keith Miller, of Lowell, have been at all 10 MS auctions hosted by Albert’s. Their successful bid for a pair of earrings provides the perfect birthday gift for her mother, Sheila said.
“It’s a great cause. It’s one of the events we look forward to every year,” Keith Miller said, adding he also had his eye on the various baskets put together for the silent auction and especially “the man cave and bar items.”
Some 130 baskets were assembled by the Albert’s staff for the silent auction. The basket contents were donated by many area businesses, organizations and individuals, said Sara Brown, Albert’s marketing and public relations manager.
Attendees also participated in raffles and 50/50 drawings.
The SSCVA donated facilities at the welcome center for the event.
“Anytime that the SSCVA board and staff can give back to the community, we do,” said Speros Batistastos, the organization's president and CEO.
Jalapeno’s provided free food, Lithographic Communications sponsored the beverages, and a sweet candy bar treat was provided by Albanese Confectionery. Lamar Outdoor Advertising sponsored the seating and tables for the auction.