Jay Sorensen is on a mission. The president of Idea Works, a travel consultancy based out of Milwaukee that specializes in frequent flyer programs and new air routes, needs your help -- your help to help others. Sorensen's charity, Kids First Fund (tel. 414/961-1939; www.kidsfirstfund.org) is building the first-ever family center in an impoverished section of Latvia, a former republic of the Soviet Union that until Jay came along never heard the term "social worker" or understood how to deal with spousal or child abuse.
The 2006 Great Online Travel Auction for Kids (http://cgi3.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=kidsfirstfund) kicks off on eBay in three batches auctioning travel items on April 15, 16 & 17, 2006 with all auctions ending on April 27, 2006. In all, 20 travel companies have contributed nearly 75 items to the benefit including:
- Delta Air Lines: A pair of coach tickets for travel to any destination where Delta flies.
- Motorhome Rentals: Pick up a brand new fully-loaded RV direct from an Elkhart, Indiana factory and get it to Anchorage, Alaska by July 1, 2006. Go anywhere you want in between.
- Fosshotel of Iceland: One of Iceland's premiere hotel groups, Fosshotels have properties all over the enigmatic and interesting country. For the auction, you can choose from three separate packages including stays in the capital city of Reykjavic, and explore the Iceland countryside with stays in Reykholt in the North and Husavic even farther north.
- Virgin Atlantic Airways: Coach tickets between any U.S. city where Virgin Atlantic flies and London.
- Alaska Airlines: See Alaska and the great outdoors with tickets for travel to any destination including Alaska and Mexico.
- LAN Airlines: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, with this item you can fly between the United States and your pick of a South American destination.
- Condor Airlines: World Cup 2006 is coming. Here's one way to get to Germany with a pair of coach tickets for travel to European leisure destinations from Munich.
- Hilton HHonors Worldwide: Take the whole family to a Hilton. It's doubtful you'll see Paris, but this item is good for stays at any Hilton Family hotel in the Continental United States.
- Airbus North America: It's not life size, but kids will marvel at this model of the A380 21st Century Jetliner.
In addition to being a tax deduction, items bought at charity auctions also go to a very good cause. In this case, for Sorensen, the cause is personal. Sorensen began Kids First Fund after he and his wife adopted two 18-month old Latvian children more than 8 years ago. After seeing the quality of children's facilities and the lack of any family aid programs, Sorensen and his family decided to act.
Beginning with education, Kids First Fund held seminars with police officers, doctors and legal professionals helping them identify and help with children in abusive situations. Money earned from this year's auction will go towards a family center that aims to recreate a healthy, communal home environment and double as a shelter for abused women and their children.
"Child and family abuse was completely overlooked in the former Soviet Union," says Sorensen. "My wife and I felt so lucky with our boys that we wanted to give back to the country that gave us so much."