The biggest night of the year is coming up for the local Peer Court program.
The annual Peer Court auction is scheduled for Friday evening at Turtle Run Banquet Center, 332 E. Liberty Lane. The auction begins at 7 p.m. with a preview of the items starting an hour beforehand. Peer Court will provide hors d’oeuvre during the preview.
Katie Osterbur is associate director of the Peer Court program. She said proceeds from the annual auction amount to around 25 percent of the program’s yearly budget — almost the same cost of housing a minor in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“This event is a great way to show the kids how much support they have,” she said. “It is overwhelming the amount of items that are donated.
“Then to have 300-plus come and bid on these items,” Osterbur added. “I feel like we get more and more people each year.”
This year marks the 20th year for the Peer Court program in Vermilion County.
Last year the event brought in more than $20,000 for the program. Peer Court has increased its income each year an auction has happened. It began in 2006.
As an event known in previous years for original and unique gifts, this year will be no different for the Peer Court auction.
Osterbur indicted there are several eye-catchers this year, starting with an experience at the University of Notre Dame campus.
“The Day at Notre Dame is a big one,” she said. “That will be a full-day experience.”
In addition, she said there are a number of items from the University of Illinois as well.
“We have a lot of Illini stuff this year with Chief Illiniwek,” she said, including a woven blanket of the former longtime mascot for the Champaign-Urbana school.
Two plane rides have been donated from separate people this year as well as a combine ride for those who prefer to stay closer to the ground. A litany of handmade items ranging from pottery to quilts have been donated and will be up for bids.
Aside from unique gifts, there is a vast array of other items that will be up for bid at Friday evening’s event, such as gift baskets filled with specialty items from local businesses. Also at the event will be tickets to local musicals by the Danville Light Opera and productions by the Red Mask Players.
“It’s a fun time and a good cause,” Osterbur said.
In addition to the auction, tickets for a 50/50 raffle also are on sale for the event. The tickets — $5 per ticket or $20 for five tickets — are available by contacting the Peer Court Office at 443-9044.
The Peer Court program, a United Way agency, has worked with first-time juvenile offenders in Vermilion County for more than 15 years, teaching the youths to take responsibility for their actions. Through a court/jury scenario of their peers, the offenders are sentenced to community service, apologies, essays and other penalties intended to improve the youths’ choices in life.
Osterbur said increasing funding through the success of the annual auction has opened new doors for the Peer Court program, allowing it to offer a variety of new opportunities to participants.
“We’ve been able to offer clients more opportunities,” she said. “We’ve been able to go out more in the community and train and recruit more volunteers.”
According to 2012 statistics, the Peer Court program received a total of 178 referrals during the year — 94 from the Vermilion County State’s Attorney and 84 from city Municipal Court.
“The thing with Peer Court is that no matter what, we’re going to be here,” she said. “We have that much support.”
Peer Court auction tickets are $10 per person and are available at the door or before the date of the Peer Court Auction. For information or purchase, contact the Peer Court at 443-9044 or coordinators Paul Sermersheim at 304-8821 or Katie Osterbur at 260-0023.