By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009
There was no shortage of enthusiasm at last Thursday's benefit auction for the girl whose escape from her mother's Calvert County home in September led authorities to discover her sisters' bodies in a basement freezer. There was, however, a shortage of bidders.
Only a few dozen bidders attended the Our Project Charity Benefit at the Hilton Garden Inn in Solomons, spending about $3,300 on more than $73,000 in donated merchandise. The marquee item, a $60,000 dress designed by the man who organized the benefit, was not sold.
In total, organizers said, the benefit raised $4,315 through sales and donations. The money will nearly double a fund for the girl, dubbed "Calvert's child" by the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
"I think it's amazing," said Gary Anderson, director of the Calvert Department of Social Services, which is handling the girl's care. "This has just been an extraordinary evening."
The girl, 8, is living with a foster family in Calvert, authorities have said. Anderson offered few details about her condition, telling those at the auction that "she is alive, and she is safe, and she is doing well."
After fleeing her mother's home, the girl was hospitalized for several days. According to court records, she had extensive infected sores, ligature marks around her neck and bruises covering her body.
The girl's mother, 43-year-old Renee Bowman, is being held in the Calvert jail, charged with attempted murder. She has not been charged in the deaths of the girl's two sisters, who would have been 9 and 11.
The auction was organized by 21-year-old fashion designer Phillip Garrett, who spotted the girl wandering the streets in his Lusby neighborhood and called police.
What the benefit lacked in cash, it made up for in passion. At the end of the event, choirs from Patuxent, Calvert and Northwestern high schools, dressed in their Sunday best, filled the room with the sounds of "The Greatest Love of All."
"I didn't want that music to ever stop," Anderson said. "If you could bottle it, I could live probably 45 years off that."
There were also moments of humor. David "Spiggy Hogette" Spigler, a well-known Washington Redskins fan, served as master of ceremonies, his colorful dress and pig nose standing out in a room full of people wearing formal gowns and suits and ties. Calvert commissioners Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) and Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) were also on hand, trading good-natured barbs throughout the ceremony.
"Commissioner Shaw needs this!" Kelley bellowed when bidding began on a customized tattoo.
Although the dress Garrett designed failed to sell, he said he was pleased with the money raised.
"Tonight was great. It was a great accomplishment," he said.
Charlottis Woodley of Loveville went to the auction mainly to support Garrett, whom she had seen on the news after the incident in September. "I am very pleased," she said. "It's just good to see a young man taking responsibility."
She left with more than a few good deals, including The Washington Post press plates from the night Barack Obama was elected president for $250.
To donate money, clothes, toys or other items for the girl, send them to the Calvert County Department of Social Services, care of Calvert's Child, 200 Duke St., Prince Frederick, 20678.