UPDATE: Dreams Come True announced Friday that the bidding was over. The winning bid was $6,000 from David Mahon of Ponte Vedra. Mahon is expected to hand over the honors to his 18-year-old son.
ORIGINAL STORY: A Jacksonville man set a $600 bar to push the button to explode 1,500 pounds of dynamite and bring down two towers Saturday morning at the St. Johns River Power Park.
He’s participating in an auction to raise money for children with life-threatening conditions.
Andrea Siracusa, director of community relations for Dreams Come True, a Jacksonville wish-granting organization, said the auction partners her organization and Total Wrecking and Environmental, the contractor who will bring down the decades-old, 462-foot tall cooling towers.
Dreams Come True, which Siracusa said receives no federal money, is offering 100 passes for $100 each to watch Saturday’s 8 a.m. tower demolition.
On top of the $100 rate, people can add bids for the honor of “pushing the plunger” to set off multiple blasts and send 100,000 tons of concrete toppling down, said Frank Bodami, Total Wrecking & Environmental owner.
The whole implosion should last about 12 seconds, following a 10-second countdown, Bodami said. The power park was run by JEA and FP&L.
After all, he asked, who doesn’t have “blowing up a building,” for a good cause, on their bucket list?
As of Wednesday afternoon, Siracusa said 30 passes to watch the demolition had been claimed.
Online registration for those passes opened at 10 a.m. June 4. People could begin making bids to push the plunger eight days later. As of Wednesday afternoon, the man who volunteered $600 led the bidding, which closes at 5 p.m. at Friday.
Siracusa said the partnership with Total Wrecking and Environmental developed three weeks ago because leadership wanted to use the demolition to raise money for a Northeast Florida charity.
“I think they fit perfectly in what my personal beliefs are, and I think, what our company’s direction is,” Bodami said. “We like to give back to the communities we’re in.”
Siracusa said all proceeds from the passes and additional bids will go to make children’s wishes become realities. She said Dreams Come True fulfilled 170 of those wishes last year and is on track to meet or exceed that number this year.
The most popular “dream” for kids is a week-long Orlando trip, Siracusa said. Kids and their families stay at the wheelchair-accessible Give Kids the World Village and receive Disney parks passes.
The organization sent four-year-old Gabriella Gaul and her family on a Disney cruise in March.
Gaul was 22 months old when her birth mother’s boyfriend beat her so badly he almost killed her, said her adoptive mother, Catherine Burnett-Gaul. She coded twice and a neurosurgeon told her family Gaul wouldn’t make it. The surgeon performed a craniotomy to the right side of her head the day she was brought in for treatment.
Now, the only hints of Gaul’s beating are a bald spot behind her right ear and a short temper. She doesn’t like when people stare at her, Burnett-Gaul said, but she’s usually smiling and will start kindergarten at a Montessori school in the fall.
“She’s a miracle, Burnett-Gaul said. “She was not supposed to be here today.”
Dreams Come True looks out for families like hers, Burnett-Gaul said, and it’s made her daughter feel like she belongs.