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Monday, June 10, 2024

SOLD! Like Father, Like Daughter

Lyla Stebbins, daughter of professional benefit auctioneer Tom Stebbins, has already raised $750K and is about to become the youngest certified auctioneer ever.

Talk about being sold on a career path. Just last year, Lyla Stebbins of Delmar was your fairly typical teenager, going to school and soccer practice—and thinking about a business degree down the road. Flash-forward a year and a half, and the 15-year-old is garnering a lot of attention in the nonprofit auctioneering world. And she’s raising a lot of money. 

“It’s so wonderful to give back to the community,” says Lyla, who handedly raised about $750,000 from just five charity events. “And I’m grateful that I’m on this journey with my dad, and that this money we raised can be transformative, not just for the nonprofits but for the community.”

Lyla after an outfit change at this year’s local Make-A-Wish Gala.

Dad is Tom Stebbins, who has worked in benefit auctioneering for the last two decades, always in one of his signature (and endearingly loud) dinner jackets. In fifth grade, Lyla wrote that she wanted to be an emcee because she knew that was her dad’s profession, even though she didn’t know what that word meant. “I was working as the entertainment person at Club Med,” Tom says. “And the auctioneer for the Carter Center got snowed in in Denver, and I filled in. That night, I raised more than $1 million.”

Since then, Tom has raised more than $10 million and performed as a nonprofit auctioneer (his charisma and willingness to jump on chairs to grab people’s attention make him more like an emcee or events manager) at hundreds of fundraisers, including events for some local heavy hitters such as the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast NY, and the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA is particularly close to the Stebbins family, as Lyla was born with Patent Ductus Arteriosus—a rare, congenital heart defect that required surgery within the first weeks of her life. 

Because of that experience, for the Capital Region AHA’s fundraiser in June 2022, Tom asked Lyla if she was interested in attending and helping out. “I went with him and had an absolute ball—literally,” laughs Lyla. “I had one of the best times of my life. My dad was like, ‘That was great! Do you want to do a couple more?’ And it’s been like that ever since.”

Lyla and Tom at the American Heart Association’s June fundraiser.

Indeed, Lyla is quickly catching up to Dad. Since that AHA fundraiser, she’s impressed so many in the nonprofit auctioneering world that she got invited to the Greater Washington Region Heart Ball on March 2 at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington, D.C., where she will be flown down to help fundraise. Talk about VIP treatment!

But Lyla isn’t stopping the bidding there. In December, she’ll head to the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist Designation Academy in Las Vegas to begin her certification with the National Auctioneer Association (NAA). Once completed, Lyla will become, at 15, the youngest certified auctioneer…well, ever. “It’s a little dramatic to say the youngest one in the history of the world, but definitely the youngest in the history of the certification,” Lyla says. “It’s super exciting, the way this has snowballed. And it’s so cool that the NAA has allowed someone as young as me to get the education I need to help as many nonprofits as I desire.”        

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler is a contributing writer for Capital Region Living.

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