For 24 hours one day in November, first-year medical student Ali Batouli was at the beck and call of classmate Caitlin Koerber. “I owned his soul on Friday, November 16,” Koerber said, referring to her $75 purchase of Batouli’s services at the 2007 Hunger and Homelessness Auction earlier that month. Among the more than 300 items offered at both the live and silent auctions—including babysitting and meals prepared by students, weekend stays in faculty vacation homes, rides on faculty yachts and dinners at local restaurants—was an item from Batouli.
“For one full day I will do anything you ask me to, except break the law, physically harm myself or someone else, permanently alter my appearance and spend a lot of money I don’t have. Certain restrictions may apply. Ask your doctor if you are allergic to Ali.”
After soliciting ideas from classmates, Koerber said, “Ali was ordered to do monkey impressions in anatomy lab whenever anyone said the word piriformis (which was a lot), wear a green and white polka-dot dress in lab, hug everyone and serenade each learning society with ‘I’ll Make Love to You.’ After lab, Ali drove me to Philadelphia, where I was spending my Thanksgiving break. We tangoed in gas stations where Ali bought me Starbucks and gave me a piggyback ride back to the car, at my request.”
Behind the fun was a serious purpose: the auction raised $30,000 for seven area charities. The proceeds will benefit the Emergency Shelter Management Service, the Community Health Care Van, Loaves and Fishes, Domestic Violence Services, the Community Soup Kitchen, the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen and Caring Cuisine.
Barbara Hirschman, a second-year M.D./Ph.D. student and one of the auction’s two co-chairs, said local organizations were asked to submit grant applications. Members of the auction’s board, which includes students in medicine, public health, nursing and the Physician Associate Program, also made site visits.
“We want to fund organizations that can complete a project,” Hirschman said. “We want to see that the money we provide them has a tangible benefit as opposed to going to operational costs.”