Not a seat was left vacant at the Gravelle Benefit Auction on Friday that raised more than $10,000.
"There are people out there who want to help this cause," Michael Gravelle had said during a press conference he called July 11, and his words rang true at the Kraus Auction House.
The large building was overrun with supporters of Michael and Sharen Gravelle, many spilling out onto the paved driveway. Fanning themselves to keep cool, the crowd was light-hearted and laughing, enjoying their evening. The auction was a fundraiser for the Gravelles, who need $50,000 to pay for an appeal of their child neglect and abuse convictions.
"We're here to support these people, they're good people," Norwalk resident Anne Sumner said. "The media has given them a bad light and we're here to help get them back on track."
The Gravelles helped the auctioneers with various items and greeted everyone with a smile.
"These are good people, anybody who'd be willing to take on that many children has got to be a good person," Sandusky resident Toby Johnson said.
The Gravelles, former adoptive parents, were convicted of neglecting and abusing some of their 11 special-needs children. The children were taken by Huron County officials in September 2005 after allegations the children slept in cages.
The Gravelles started with 30 criminal charges, including 17 felonies, and were convicted of four felonies and seven misdemeanors. They plan to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Auctioneer Steven Kraus, who met the family about a year ago, sponsored the auction to help raise funds for legal fees associated with the appeals process.
"I believe they are good, sincere people," he said. "I think it's a travesty of justice what has happened to them."
Hoots and hollers of excitement filled the air as old-fashioned straw holders sold for $45 and a large quilt went for $42.50 to another supporter. The crowd buzzed with excitement once again as pizza from Cameo's was offered up for bid.
"The Gravelles will receive 100 percent profits of the donated items," Kraus said. "Portions of the other items sold will also go to them."
Although there was a large turnout, Kraus said, the good weather might have kept people away until mid-evening.
"We could go until 10 or 11," he said early in the evening. "As long as people are here."
"We're not going away," Michael Gravelle said. "We'll keep on going until we get our family back."
Margaret Martin of Norwalk, who attended the auction, described the day she met Sharen Gravelle.
"I'm an antique dealer," she said, "and I saw Sharen walking down the road and I went out and hugged her. I told her our prayers are with her. I hope they can further their efforts to get out from under the situation."