LACONIA — With the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction serving as a fitting backdrop, Warren Bailey was given the 101.5 WEEI Home Town Hero Award on Tuesday night.
The Lakes Region has Bailey to thank for the Children’s Auction. He conceived of the fundraiser, and in 1982, when he was a host at WLNH, spent two days broadcasting from a van parked on North Main Street. He raised $2,100 that year, and the auction has grown since into what is easily the largest fundraising event in the region.
Dirk Nadon, president of WEEI, said he has known Bailey since the late 1970s. They first met at the Laconia Community Center, which used to host disco dances on Friday nights, and Nadon worked for Bailey on the radio back then.
Nadon said that Bailey always believed that the radio should be used for the betterment of the community, and the creation of the Children’s Auction is the result of that belief.
“He wanted to raise money for people who can’t afford to give their kids presents, or even afford the basics of life,” Nadon said. “Warren has used the power of radio and media to make a positive difference in our hometowns.”
The Children’s Auction, which is now carried on radio stations, Lakes Region Public Access TV and online, reliably generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and Nadon noted that many local charities can count on their cause being furthered by funds the auction generates.
“It’s a half-million dollars that local nonprofits count on… Warren planted a seed and look at that tree. What a hero.”
Nadon established the Home Town Hero award in honor of his mother and stepfather, Bill and Peggy Forbes. Peggy was a first grade teacher in Laconia for 33 years, while Bill was a businessman who founded 101.5 FM and sought to use his businesses to improve the community.
“Like my mom and Stepfather, Warren’s contributions have made the quality of life here better,” said Nadon.