MAHOMET — It’s perfectly fine to let your enthusiasm for helping young people go to your head next week — it’s all for a good cause.

In fact, “Hats Off to the Mahomet Area Youth Club” is a theme that encourages not only support for MAYC but also fun via a contest for the most memorable hats worn to the annual auction, presented this year by Gibson Area Hospital, the event’s signature sponsor.

“This year it will be in the winter and at the iHotel, so a little different than the summer in the barn,” said Sara Balgoyen, MAYC executive director. “We’ve been so blessed with the donation of the Schroeder Farms barn for many, many years, but decided to make this switch for a couple reasons, and it’s been in motion for a little while.”

One reason for the change was feedback from attendees, many of whom noted that summer is a busy time of year and more difficult to work the MAYC auction into people’s schedules. Another is the susceptibility of the auction, when held in the barn, to weather extremes, particularly to high temperatures.

Balgoyen noted summertime also is the busiest time of year for the MAYC staff, so the switch to a wintertime auction made sense. The annual Run Mahomet to benefit the youth club also was close to the auction time, she added.

“So all of those things combined led us to a little bit of a shift and we’re hoping that the community will still come out and support the cause,” Balgoyen said.

As the theme indicates, the wearing of hats will be a central part of the auction fun.

“We’re encouraging fun hats,” Balgoyen said. “We’ll have a top hat award, for kind of the funniest or craziest or best — who knows? We’ll see what that looks like.”

The MAYC Volunteer of the Year will be announced at the auction. Emcee will be Matt Difanis, and Andy Busch will be the auctioneer.

Doors for “Hats Off to the Mahomet Area Youth Club” open at 5:30 p.m. at the iHotel & Conference Center, 1900 S. First St., Champaign, on Saturday, Feb. 22. Tickets are $75 per person or $520 for a table of eight or $650 for a table of 10. The evening will include a live auction, silent auction, dessert auction, music, food and beverages, raffle and more.

Tickets can be purchased online by going to

New this year, Balgoyen noted, is that everyone who purchases a ticket will be entered into a drawing for a seven-day stay to a place of their choice across the world.

Champion sponsors of the auction are the Mahomet Lions Club and Mahomet Rotary.

Leader, Mentor and Hat Sponsors, and other sponsors, include Lisa & Bill Peithman; First State Bank of Forrest; Express Employment; Busey Bank Mahomet; Fisher National Bank; Matt Difanis REMAX; Mahomet Car Connection; ACE Hardware; Mahomet Chamber of Commerce; Dean’s Blueprint; UpClose Printing; Mahomet Insurance Center; Martin Hood Friese; Koerner Distributor; and BSN Sports.

Balgoyen said donations are still being accepted for the live and silent auctions. This can be done on the MAYC website, or call 217-621-3913 for more information.

Items already on the auction block include gift baskets ranging from themes of wine to cigars, books and more; a Disney trip for four; Cubs tickets; and an autographed Illini basketball. The raffle this year — costing $20 per ticket — features a $2,000 cash first prize; $1,000 for second; and $500 in gift cards to ACE Hardware for third place.

Balgoyen said Mahomet remains a place where people are enthusiastic about the youth club.

“The community is really super supportive,” she said. “Everything goes right to MAYC’s programming. This is one of our largest fundraisers that really goes directly to funding scholarships and out-of-school programming for our families that can’t afford it.”

MAYC, which offers after-school, summer and other programs for young people, saw 122 students registered for programs last summer, averaging 75-80 each day at the facility at 700 W. Main St., according to Balgoyen.

“We’re bursting at the seams already with that, already, in this building,” she said. “But in addition to that, the needs of the kids have really increased as well.

“A lot of the things I’m seeing … are contributing to us really needing to be more structured and staffed up and available to respond,” Balgoyen added.

Last year, the auction netted about $70,000.

“We’re really hoping that we do that again this year, if not more, as things are growing,” Balgoyen said.