Auction to Aid Girl in Suspected Abuse Case

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Phillip Garrett remembers the day he spotted the 7-year-old-girl walking down the street -- her pink nightgown caked with blood, her body covered in bruises. He recalls watching as investigators descended on her house in Calvert County, where they found the remains of her two sisters in a freezer.

Moved by what he had seen, Garrett resolved to do something to help the child. Now, he is hoping her story will inspire people to open their hearts -- and checkbooks -- at an auction he has organized to raise money for her.

"I knew there was more that I could do," Garrett said. "I could do more than just calling [police] that day."

The event, which Garrett is calling Our Project Charity Benefit, is from 3 to 7 p.m. today at the Hilton Garden Inn in Solomons. Admission is free. Hors d'oeuvres will be served, and a violin quartet will be on hand.

A local auctioneer has volunteered to run the auction, Garrett said. Among the donated items that will be made available are three all-inclusive weekend hotel stays, a round of golf and a Starbucks gift package, he said.

Garrett, a self-employed fashion designer, persuaded the Swarovski company to donate crystal pieces for a dress he designed, and he plans to auction it.

"We were happy to participate with this most worthwhile cause and sincerely hope it helps to generate a generous financial contribution for the auction," said Erin Grenier, a company spokeswoman.

Garrett, 21, declined to say how many people have committed to attending, but among those expected are state Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald. Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans (R) and county Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) also said they are planning to go.

When Garrett first proposed auctioning off an evening gown to help the girl, now 8, he had no car and just a few thousand dollars. His only connection to the case was that he happened to find the girl wandering alone Sept. 26 as he smoked a cigarette on a neighbor's porch.

In planning the auction, Garrett said, he contacted dozens of companies in search of donations and financial support.

"It does start off with 'Hello,' " he said, joking about how he approached sponsors. "Lots of people, if they'd known of it, they hopped on."

Garrett advertised for the event in The Washington Post. Sponsors started lining up when he teamed with the state Department of Human Resources, which is handling the money for the girl it has dubbed "Calvert's child," spokeswoman Elyn Jones said.

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