Willie Nelson Collection, at Carter Center Auction

by: Ernie Suggs

The Carter Center’s annual retreat is going digital.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual gathering and fundraiser that netted more than $4 million last summer for the Carter Center will be a virtual celebration that will include special messages from President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, as well as an up-close-and-personal look at some of the center’s programs.

The highlight of every retreat, the annual artwork and memorabilia auction, will still take place.

“Carter Center Weekend has been a favorite event of both donors and staff for more than a decade,” said Jason Carter, chairman of The Carter Center Board of Trustees and co-host of Saturday’s show alongside Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander.

“COVID-19 makes it impossible for us to see each other in person this year — but on the bright side, the fact that we’re doing this virtually means we can invite the entire world to be part of it,” Jason Carter said.

he 2020 Carter Center Weekend is actually two events in one — a four-day online auction that begins on Aug. 26, and a live show at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29.

Saturday’s broadcast will feature messages from Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, and Hank and Billye Aaron.

It will also feature a town hall meeting with Jason Carter and Alexander, and staff discussions about Guinea worm eradication and election observation.

“This will be my first Carter Center Weekend event,” Alexander said. “I’m really looking forward to spending time online with some of our most devoted supporters and sharing details about what the Center has been able to accomplish during these challenging times.”

The Carter Center has been holding retreats for supporters and donors since 1992 and has raised more than $35 million on the annual auctions alone to go toward the Carter Center’s global outreach.

Brent Slay and his wife, Diane have known the Carters since 1998, even hosting them in their Grand Rapids, Michigan, home in 2006 for the funeral of former President Gerald Ford.

They had gone to the retreat for 21 straight years. At last year’s retreat in Leesburg, Virginia, Slay won the bid on a fishing trip with Johnny Morris and Bill Dance.

I sure wish we could all be together in person because we’ve formed so many wonderful friendships,” Slay said. “But we’ll collectively do the best we can to continue to support the work of President and Mrs. Carter through this wonderful organization.”

As in years past, the auction’s highlight is an original oil painting by President Carter. The winning bidder can choose from one of three – one featuring a branch of mountain laurel, one featuring two Northern Cardinals, and one featuring Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

Other notable auction items include:

  • A vintage Remington typewriter from Tom Hanks’ personal typewriter collection.
  • A photo of President Carter with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, signed by all three.
  • A collection of Beatles memorabilia featuring a framed copy of “Help!” signed by Ringo Starr, and a block of wood from the church where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met.
  • A case of Presidential Reserve Rum bearing President Carter’s signature made at the Richland Rum Distillery in Richland, Georgia.
  • A collection of Willie Nelson memorabilia that includes a signed guitar and a signed picture of Nelson and Rosalynn Carter on stage.
  • A handmade bowl that wood turner Matt Moulthrop made from a bulletwood tree that spent years submerged in the Panama Canal.
  • A painting of monarch butterflies titled “Migration,” by artist Sherri Richards.
  • A silkscreen by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl featuring his drawing of the throne he sat in on stage after he broke his leg on tour.
  • A Damascus steel Bowie knife with a railroad spike handle hand forged by artist Jeremiah “Jeremy” Cohn.

Bidding for these and 60 other items opens on Aug. 26, and runs through the evening of Aug. 29.

Go to cartercenter.org/cartercenterweekend to learn more about the auction and the broadcast, which will stream live on cartercenter.org and the Carter Center’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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