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A big thank you for helping us raise $583,752 for our 40th Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction!

Children's Auction magic returned for 40th fundraiser

TILTON — Jaimie Sousa didn’t know what to expect for the 40th Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction. Last year’s fundraiser garnered $435,809, a good ways short of the 2019 figure but still considered a success due to the considerable adaptations necessary to hold the event in the midst of a pandemic.

This year, there were early indications that they’d do better than last year, Sousa said.

“I knew partway through the week that we were doing well, but I could have had no idea,” where they ended up: $583,752, just a stone’s throw from the mark of $600,032 set in 2019.

“It was better than I could have ever anticipated, in terms of the excitement and the funds raised, it was beyond belief,” said Sousa, chair of the Auction’s board of directors. “We are so excited.”

There were many reasons for the board members and other volunteers to have tempered expectations. The auction was able to go back to a usual mode of operations this year, despite ongoing pandemic concerns. The auction’s prospects might have been affected by the curtailed operations of 2020, which were held on a closed set at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion. And finally, the auction was taking place at a new location, in a storefront at the Tanger Outlets.

That the auction overcame all of those was proof of what some might call the auction’s magic, said Sousa, the positive feedback loop between the people putting on the auction and those placing bids from wherever they were.

“I think people were looking for some sense of normalcy,” Sousa said. It was important to find a way to put on an auction last year, but it didn’t have the same atmosphere that has come to define the week-long Lakes Region tradition. “We had a very small cast of faces you could see at the auction. It was nice and really exciting to be able to do something last year, but it isn’t the same as having all these personalities to laugh and joke with each other, and to have the Lakes Region community come together.”

“I think you can feel that kind of energy while watching from home, and it was reciprocal. We could see the overbids on the board,” Sousa said, referring to the phenomenon of bidders going over the stated value of the item, sometimes significantly so. In one case this year, a membership to the Laconia Country Club, normally valued at $5,000, sold for $40,000.

“It’s like we’re feeding the bidders, and they’re feeding us with their bids,” said Sousa.

The new location proved to be more of a benefit than a challenge, with people first learning about the auction because they were at the mall for holiday shopping, and auction supporters visiting a nearby storefront to purchase something to donate.

“People were coming at all hours to drop things off, which was really incredible,” said Sousa. “I would love to be back at Tanger next year.”

There were a couple of new things for the 40th. Cycle Mania returned, with a 12-hour spin bike session at Gilford Hills Tennis & Fitness Club, which inspired a Cycle Mania spin-off at the Downtown Gym that produced a truckload of donated bicycles. That led to a pop-up bike shop halfway through the auction.

Radio personality Pat Kelly spent many hours urging high and frequent bids, and his daughter, Teghan Marie Kelly, put on a concert at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse to carry on the family tradition of supporting the auction.

Sousa said it was interesting to see all the ways people found to connect with the auction. And that’s important, because all of those connections mean that the many charities that support local children will be able to find support in the form of a Children’s Auction grant.

“The requests continue to increase. Knowing that we have substantial funds to meet them is really exciting,” Sousa said.

Teams awarded for 2021 Community Challenge

LACONIA — Teams in the 2021 Community Challenge raised a record $331,727 in the second year of this new event with 100 percent of the proceeds flowing to the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, which raised a grand total of $583,752.

The Challenge is the evolution of Pub Mania, which began in 2009 and raised over $2.3 million for the auction during its 11-year run.

The Challenge gives awards to the teams that brings the most food items to a local food pantry, raise the most money, and for the Outstanding Participation Contest.

The 2021 Challenge recognized Gretchen Gandini and Heather Joubert of Taylor Community for the Feeding Families Award, and the Outstanding Participation Award was presented to Team Verani, with team captains Deb and Greg Peverly, Mitch Hamel and Susan Cummins.

This year’s Top Dollar Trophy goes to Birdies with a Cause with team captains Allison Mitzel and Rachal Rollins, raising $40,277 on the strength of a record overbid for a membership at Laconia Country Club. “We’re delighted with the result and being part of this event that will fund so many programs that help children and families” said Mitzell, PGA Pro at LCC. “The donation from Laconia Country Club made all the difference and we’re very grateful to the board and membership.”

Rounding out the top earning teams are Cafe Deja Vu with $27,082, Patrick’s King’s Corner with $25,341, The Lakers with $22,563, Laconia Harley Iron Butts with $20,060, Winnipesaukee Yacht Club Diving Ducks, Belknap Landscape Company’s Merry Misfits with $18,458), Tagg Team with $14,342, Gunstock with $13,594) and Verani Realty with $13,580.

Gator Graphix of Gilford was the top rookie team for the event, raising $13,307.

Each of the more than 40 teams has one or more team captains. “The team captains are the backbone of this event,” said event co-chair Holly Ruggieri. “They inspire others to participate and fundraise to help kids here in the greater Lakes Region.”

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Lakes Region raises $583,752 for Children's Auction this year

Community Challenge contributes over $330,000 to total

GILFORD — The Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction celebrated its 40th year by doing what it does every year: raising lots of money for local charities that help children. This year's total was $583,752. But before the cheers were raised at the auction's Tanger Outlets headquarters, another party was held in a different local town.

Patrick's Pub and Eatery was awash with guests Thursday night as revelers celebrated the more than $330,000 raised by the 40-plus teams of the Community Challenge.

The challenge traces its roots right down to the bar stools of the pub itself. In the past, the challenge was known as Pub Mania, and was a 24-hour event. Each team had a bar stool that needed to be occupied for those 24 hours, and would cycle out members accordingly as they raised funds for the auction.

Nowadays, there are too many teams and not enough stools, so the event has expanded into a massive, year-long fundraising contest that contributes mightily to the total funds raised by the Children's Auction each year. Below is a list of the top earning teams this year, and the amounts they contributed.

Gator Graphics contributed: $12,707; Team Verani: $13,580; Gunstock: $13,594; Merry Misfits: $17,108; Diving Ducks: $19,684; the Iron Butts: $20,060; Patrick's King's Corner $25,341; Cafe Deja Vu: $27,082; Birdies for a Cause: $40,000+

The total funds were given to the Greater Lakes Region Children Auction at noon on Friday in the form of an oversized check with the exact amount of $331,727+ written on it. The plus on the check signifies that the final amount isn't in yet. That's because the top earning team, Birdies for a Cause, raised their funds through a specific item on the auction list. That item is a highly coveted year-long full membership at the Laconia Country Club. As of this writing, the current bid for the membership is at $40,000, nearly nine times its original value, and had the potential to go up as the auction continued.

“We figured it would raise $10,000 when we put it up,” Birdies for a Cause co-captain Allison Mitzel said. “It usually gets about $6,000 to $10,000. Honestly, it's overwhelming and very exciting at the same time.”

The country club currently has a membership wait list of over 200 people, and prospective members can't buy their way to a better place in line, making the membership on the auction block the only way to be instantly guaranteed membership to the club.

“People really want to get in,” Mitzel said. “If you're on the list way at the bottom, it could be a five year wait to get in.”

As for the cause of such a lengthy list? According to Mitzel, the club saw membership shoot up during the pandemic.

“A lot of people moved up here, and maybe sold their places down south, so it's exciting. It's just a nice thing for the community to see something like this can do so much good.”

Mitzel wanted to also acknowledge the efforts of the Laconia Country Club board of directors and her co-captain, Rachael Rollins.

Community Challenge recognizes top teams for 2021

With all remaining donations now tallied, the 2021 Community Challenge announced a new total of $332,342 raised for the Lakes Region Children’s Auction, which now accounts for over 57% of the total donations to the Auction of $583,752.

“We’re so grateful to all of the teams who worked so hard to support the kids of the Lakes Region,” said Challenge co-chair Holly Ruggieri of Team Ladies of the Lake. “Each team contributed in their own unique way.”

With the 2021 Challenge now complete, Ruggieri and co-chair Allan Beetle announced additional recognition for 2021 Challenge teams who went above and beyond to support the Children’s Auction.

In addition to celebrating Team Birdies for a Cause, who won the Top Dollar Award for raising $40,277, the Challenge also celebrated Team Cafe Deja Vu for coming in second with a donation of $27,082.

“Team Cafe Deja Vu just brings it every year,” said Challenge co-chair Allan Beetle. “Captains Brenda Martel and Tony Felch run a variety of events year-round and they’re always one of the top teams at the Shuffle fundraisers held at Patrick’s Pub in spring and fall.”

The Challenge Committee also recognized third place top dollar team King’s Corner, whose $25,341 was unique in other ways. First, their total was boosted by $5,000 thanks to the inaugural Community Challenge Sweepstakes Social fundraiser held this fall on board the M/S Mount Washington.

“The Sweepstakes Social winner of the $5,000 grand prize also received a matching $5,000 donation to their team of choice, which was King’s Corner,” Beetle explained. “But even more special was that King’s Corner co-captain Patti Clifford personally raised even more than $5,000 for King’s Corner by baking hundreds of pies to sell at our fall and spring shuffles.”

“The pies were amazing,” agreed Ruggieri, “especially the ones with wild blueberries she picked herself in the Belknaps!”

Ruggieri and Beetle also wanted to thank Team Verani Realty Reindeer, Team Ladies of the Lake, and Tagg Team for being the top three teams with Outstanding Performance, as well as the top three teams who won the Feeding Families Award for donating the greatest number of canned goods to the St. Vincent dePaul and Salvation Army food pantries; Taylor Community, Juggernaut Fitness, and WYC Diving Ducks.

“Every year we just continue to be amazed by the creativity, commitment, and generosity of all of our Challenge Teams, our sponsors, and everyone who donated,” said Ruggieri. Inside the 2021 Lakes Region Children's Auction

From one to very many: Children's Auction effort now contains multitudes

Before this article is published, a not-so-small army of volunteers has already mobilized to begin bringing to life the 40th Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, which kicks off Tuesday. By the time the event concludes on Friday, it will have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars — around a half-million, if recent years are any indication — for local children.

How do they do it? Largely through the enthusiasm and dedication of scores of volunteers, people who started helping in a small way, sometimes through coercion or professional obligation, and come back year after year, eager to take on an even bigger load of the work.

The auction started as a radio program, and it reached a new audience and level when Lakes Region Public Access joined 20 years ago. Grace McNamara is the fourth LRPA station manager to help put the auction on local television screens — and, more recently, on local computer monitors and smart devices — which it does through the help of other local partners such as The Enablement Group, SOS Tech and Atlantic Broadband, and with students from the Huot Technical Center’s digital media program.

“For me and my team, what makes the hard work of the auction worthwhile is knowing that our efforts, along with the hundreds of other volunteers who work year-round on this event, result in much-needed funds that go to amazing local nonprofits that support children and families in need. Fantastic,” McNamara said.

Hannaford Supermarket has also been involved for 20 years, said Larry Poliquin, manager at the Hannaford in Gilford. The supermarket sends volunteers to work at the auction, provides food for the auction crew, and donates items to go up on the auction boards. Poliquin said the auction satisfies two main goals for Hannaford: supporting community organizations and fighting to end food insecurity.

“The Children’s Auction meets both of those goals and is one of a handful of organizations that operates with minimal overhead, assuring that the majority of the funds raised go right to those in need,” said Poliquin. “The impact the auction has made on the community over the last 40 years is incredible. Not only have they raised millions of dollars for the youth of the Lakes Region, they have created an event that brings the community together in a way rarely seen these days... Being a part of this amazing event is a true honor for us and we look forward to supporting the event in years to come.”

A third long-time supporter is Path Resorts, the company that operates Steele Hill Resort, Summit Resort and Center Harbor Inn. Justin Cutillo, vice president at Path, said the company started with the auction by donating gift certificates and getaway packages to tempt bidders. “With a little prodding from some key staff members, we have become more involved with the charity,” said Cutillo. One such staff member is Jill Ober, director of systems at Path, who is also on the auction board of directors. This year, Path is offering a vacation sweepstakes to benefit the auction, has hosted a “Beachapalooza” to raise money for the event, is running a food drive, is sponsoring a bid board and will send employees to work the phone bank.

“In the hospitality industry we see both sides of the coin, guests from out-of-town spending big money to vacation in our beautiful corner of New Hampshire, and residents in some of the surrounding towns struggling to make ends meet. People on our staff have opened our eyes to how important this cause really is,” Cutillo said. “We see the impact this charity is making on the children in the area and we understand the dividends that pay as these kids grow up and pass along that same spirit of giving to those in need behind them.”

Tanger Outlets has been involved with the auction for the past five years as a phone bank team, said Eric Proulx, manager of the outlet mall in Tilton. This year, the mall is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and with the shared milestone with the auction, the two Lakes Region hallmarks are joining together in a new way. Tanger is donating a large storefront for the auction to use for its live production, an in-kind donation worth about $5,000.

“Partnering with the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction was a natural fit,” said Proulx, “We had the space available to make it happen. Tanger has always given back to the communities it serves by supporting causes and initiatives such as cancer research, first responder and military programs, and education grants.”

Gilford Hills Tennis and Fitness Club has also supported the auction for several years. Missi Perkins said club members got together to operate the phone banks, instructors offered an on-air kickboxing class, raised money through a tennis tournament, and donated fitness classes and other items to be auctioned. “We’ve had a lot of fun raising money for a great cause,” said Perkins, adding that the club’s members are like a family, and are “thrilled” to support the cause.

This year, Gilford Hills is hosting the return of Cyclemania, a 12-hour stationary cycling challenge featuring Mike “Mad Dog” Gallagher, on Dec. 7, and will staff the phone banks on Dec. 9.

“We hope to continue our involvement for many years to come,” Perkins said.

Some were brought into contact with the auction by circumstance, and got hooked. That’s the case for Mark Persson, who was directed by his employer, Northern Telecom, to help set up a phone system for WLNH in the early 1990s.

Persson kept coming back, often to patch together a functioning phone system using re-purposed or borrowed parts. That job now includes installation of modems and internet equipment.

His initial involvement was “accidental,” Persson said, but it made an impression.

“Seeing the community come together to support this event and what it does for the Greater Lakes Region plays a big part in why I like to be involved,” Persson said. “I look at it more as a privilege to be able to provide my assistance with the equipment and my skills to help the auction be successful. I am also glad to be invited back each year.”

A man and a van

In early December of 1981, WLNH radio disc jockey Warren Bailey had just gotten approval from his superiors to try out his unusual request: to disrupt the station’s regular programming for two days to try and raise money and collect winter clothing.

Bailey, who had come to the station from the Boston area, said he was moved by what he said was “invisible poverty” in the area, and he recalled a radio station in his home city that was able to raise money through an on-air auction.

“I was begging the owners to blow up the format and do this,” Bailey said, and he finally got the green light with just a few days of notice.

He said the auction was a one-man show when it started. “It all started as a man in a van,” he said. That first year he raised $2,100, which was donated to a single charity, and he collected two dump trucks full of warm clothing and toys. “We considered it a successful first year.”

The auction doubled its productivity in year two, and continued that momentum in the third year.

“By the fourth year, the community embraced the auction. There were so many people volunteering and helping us out,” Bailey said. One year they nearly froze in the van, Bailey came down with pneumonia afterward, and they decided to move the operation indoors.

He said it has been a profound experience to watch the event grow over the decades.

“It takes my breath away, and knowing so many organizations are served,” he said. The auction he started puts warm coats on children’s backs, it feeds them through summer vacations, it provides medicated shampoo to treat lice – more than 60 local nonprofit organizations were helped from the 39th Children’s Auction.

Bailey said that many of the auction’s most ardent supporters are adults who remember being poor and young, and receiving a helping hand.

At one auction, years ago, Bailey said a woman, who worked as a lawyer in Boston, drove up in a snowstorm and asked to speak with him. He didn’t know who she was. “She said, ‘When I was a little child, you helped me,’” She handed him an envelope with a $1,000 donation. “That’s just one of so many examples of hundreds of people, when they come back as an adult and pay it forward.”

Children's Auction item preview

The Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction has a variety of items up for grabs this year:

Donated by Highland Mountain Bike Park are two passes, perfect for that daredevil in your life.

For sports fans, there are two tickets for a Dec. 20 Celtics game donated by Eastern Propane & Oil, valued at $490 value. The Boston Bruins have provided two signed wall hangings.

A ten-foot long, white, blue and grey stand up TAHE paddle board was donated by Watermark Marine, and comes with a paddle, fin and leg strap.

The Bank of NH Pavilion donated a pair of season reserved pavilion seats to all shows in the 2022 Eastern Propane Concert Series with access to the brand new Coors Light VIP Club and MB Tractor Balcony, a $10,000 value.

Donated by Bridget Harding: RJ Harding will shave off his beard during the auction, no monetary value just endless smiles.

Have an item to donate? The auction is hosting a collection event at Tanger Outlets this weekend, Dec. 4 and 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Popular auction items include toys, tools, electronics and gift cards. The auction begins Tuesday, Dec. 7. To see more highlighted items.

Children’s Auction: Why you should bid high, bid often

There’s a phenomenon you’re sure to see during this year’s Children’s Auction: The Overbid. That’s the term for a bid on an item donated to the auction that exceeds what the bidder would pay at a regular retail store. Is stupidity to blame? Just the opposite, actually. Overbidders push the bidding into orbit because they understand the value of the auction itself.

The 40th Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction will take place Dec. 7-10, with lots of lights, cameras and action, as it is live streamed and broadcast on LRPA and 101.5FM. But perhaps the most important part of the auction will come several weeks later, usually in February, when the proceeds are distributed and put to work through the many local organizations that lift up the lives of children.

Last year, nearly $500,000 in grants was handed out, and more than 60 local organizations had their wishes funded through the auction. The money was used in myriad ways, all to help the youngest of the region’s residents.

Of those funds, $10,000 went to the Circle Program, which helps girls and young women to build confidence and make healthy decisions, through a summer camp and long-term mentoring. Beth Dever, executive director, said the support from the Children’s Auction helped send five new program participants to the three-week residential camp.

“Our Circle Camp is the first experience our girls have with the program. This allows our girls the opportunity to meet their peers, become familiar with the program and participate in new activities.”

The camp is an important way to initiate a new participant, she said, because that time is also used by the adults to get to know the girls so they can make a successful mentor match.

“Creating lasting mentor/mentee pairs is so important, many of our participants have the same mentor from the time they enter our program, around the age of 10, all the way until they graduate from our program which is usually after they graduate high school,” Dever said.

The Pass Along Project received a $5,000 grant last year, which it used to purchase 200 complete wardrobe kits, including outfits, accessories and pajamas, to have ready to give to children entering foster care.

The transition to foster care typically happens with little to no warning for the foster parent, and the children usually arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back. It’s a potentially traumatic moment, and The Pass Along Project’s clothing kits ensure that the lack of age-appropriate clothing doesn’t add to the difficulty.

Lynette Kaichen, founder of The Pass Along Project, said support from the Children’s Auction has allowed them to provide better, more thorough kits. “At a time when they've lost everything, we were able to restore dignity by providing them with clothing in just the right size. In addition, this effort has saved Lakes Region foster families an estimated $60,000 in clothing expense, allowing them to say ‘yes’ to welcoming another child into their home without the concern of financial expense. With the current shortage of foster parents and rising number of children entering foster care, our program has become a valued resource for supporting foster families.”

Paula Ferenc, executive director of the Belknap House, said the Children’s Auction has supported the family shelter’s mission of providing housing while helping its residents build skills necessary to stabilize their lives.

“Belknap House is more than grateful for the funding received from the (Children’s Auction) over the years,” Ferenc said. Auction grants have allowed the Belknap House to replace windows and improve insulation, expand capacity and provide for the essential needs of homeless children. “With the support provided by (the Children’s Auction), we are able to address the immediate goal of keeping families together, and maintaining family stability.”

One of the services provided by Belknap House is connecting its parents with other resources, such as the Family Resource Center, part of Lakes Region Community Services. Erin Pettengill, vice president of FRC, said her organization received $20,000 from the Children’s Auction last year.

“This funding allows us to provide services that are designed to strengthen families and communities by enhancing social connections utilizing family support principles and protective factors,” Pettengill said. FRC’s programs — which include autism support, parent education and socialization opportunities, among others — reached more than 1,100 local children and their families last year. Some of the auction’s grant was leveraged to support families who were particularly challenged by the COVID pandemic, she said.

“This funding allows us to pivot to the needs of families and has been critical to the ability for our FRC to meet the needs of families on a big picture scale, down to concrete supports on a daily basis,” Pettengill said.

The added stress that COVID put on families highlighted the need for more attention on children’s mental health, said Ann Nichols, of Lakes Region Mental Health Center. She said that, prior to the pandemic, less than half of the estimated 12.6% of children with emotional, developmental or behavioral conditions received treatment or counseling. It is expected that the pandemic increased the number of children who need treatment, yet it also reduced encounters with professionals that would typically recognize their needs.

“Children are more vulnerable to harm right now and the demand for children’s services is increasing rapidly,” Nichols said. A Children’s Auction grant received last year allowed the mental health center to realign its evaluation processes so it could meet the increased demand.

“Due to the ongoing workforce shortages, Lakes Region Mental Health Center is significantly challenged to find needed staff that can support the increased demand for services. Consequently, being able to increase the efficiency of our internal processes as well as enhance the effectiveness in how services are delivered is paramount to our success,” Nichols said.

If circumstances in a home are increasingly chaotic, children might find themselves subject to a court’s action. In such a case, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, step in to speak up for the child’s interests.

Those advocates are volunteers, said Katie Pelczar, community outreach coordinator for CASA, but it costs $2,000 to recruit, train and support each one. “They meet with their child or children at least once a month, make recommendations to the court on what they determine to be in the child’s best interest, and are often the one consistent adult in the child’s life during what can be a scary and traumatic time,” Pelczar said.

The Children’s Auction gave $10,000 to CASA last year, and has directed $62,000 to the organization over the past six years. As with Lakes Region Mental Health Center, CASA anticipates that COVID-related pressures will result in a greater need for advocates, and the organization’s goal is to provide one for every child who needs one. “We couldn’t do this without support from the Children’s Auction and similar efforts,” Pelczar said.

Got Lunch! Laconia provides daily meals for about 500 children each summer, when access to free and reduced school lunches goes on vacation. David Abarth said the Children’s Auction provided critical support for the organization when it was getting off the ground 11 years ago.

“The first year, we had no idea how many children would be needing food and how much money we’d need. They gave us $5,000 that first year,” Barth said. In recent years, the Children’s Auction has given $30,000 to Got Lunch! Laconia. That level of support gives the organization stability and the confidence to expand.

Barth said he has been in the Lakes Region for 14 years, and said the Children’s Auction is emblematic of the region’s character.

“I find this community so supportive, no matter where you come from or what you think, everyone’s ready to help children,” Barth said.

Become a Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction Super Bidder

LACONIA — The Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction has a benefit for potential bidders for this year’s upcoming auction, scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 10 at the Tanger Outlets. Anyone looking to increase their support of the auction — or to have an edge on bidding — can become a Super Bidder.

For a donation of $100, Super Bidders will be granted a look at the items on the auction boards as soon as they are available. Super bidders can bid on items before they are open to the public; submit bids with incremental increases up to the bidders’ pre-chosen maximum; see how many bidders are also bidding on the item that they are interested in; enjoy VIP check-out and pick-up service; and be proud to support the children of the Lakes Region.

Interested community members can become a Super Bidder at

“In past years, community members have mentioned that they would love to be able to have tools available so that they could spend less time babysitting the auction for the items that they most wanted to bid on,” said auction chairperson Jaimie Sousa. “It will also give people an opportunity to donate directly to the auction to assist children in need while getting some great benefits.”

While many items have been received at this time, there is a need for thousands of items to raise enough money to meet the needs of the community.

Auction leaders will collect new, unused, unwrapped items right up to the week of the auction. Gift cards, electronics, tools, toys, sporting goods and household items all bring the highest bids. Go to the website at for a list of convenient donation drop-off sites throughout the Lakes Region. And on Black Friday weekend, Friday, Nov. 26 to Sunday, Nov. 28, visit the collection site at Tanger Outlets and drop your items off between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.


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