An empty hook on the fifth floor of the Sutter Cancer Center marks a sad day for the organizers of the hospital’s quilt auction, who declared one of their best quilts stolen Wednesday.
Every three years, the auction committee hangs hundreds of handmade, donated quilts on the Sutter walls to encourage visitors to bid on them. All proceeds from the auction, which ends Saturday, go to breast cancer research and patient services.
A security guard noticed the quilt missing on Sept. 12, said Jeanne Powell, auction committee chairwoman and two-time breast cancer survivor. At first, committee members hoped it would show up somewhere, but now most have come to the conclusion that it’s been taken, Powell said.
“It breaks your heart to see this kind of thing happen,” she said. “This is charity. It’s going to a good cause.”
The 27- by 22-inch quilt that disappeared depicted the Tower Bridge, the Sacramento River and the downtown area in vivid detail. The quilter, Alice del Pinal, said she will remake the quilt in time for the silent auction on Saturday, but it will take her about 30 hours. The quilt had already fetched a bid of $150 before it was taken.
The local scene on the quilt, in addition to its small size, might have been the reason it was taken out of the 476 on display, said Mary Pare, cancer nurse navigator. The quilter had made two other pieces in similar styles – one of San Francisco and one of Washington, D.C. – which were not stolen. This was her first year entering her works into the auction.
“It’s something precious that was donated to help women, and it’s gone,” Pare said. “Now people can’t see it, and the proceeds won’t go to the cause. It’s almost like it’s been taken twice.”
The smaller quilts were previously placed in the center’s sixth-floor library and locked there overnight, but that was not an option this year because of construction changes. The last time a quilt was stolen from the auction was in 2008. Committee members chose not to report the theft to the police, Powell said.
To brighten spirits in the lobby Wednesday morning, committee members hung the much-awaited community quilt donated by the Crocker Art Museum. That quilt, which was a collaboration from many volunteers including Mayor Kevin Johnson, was inspired by the museum’s recent exhibit, “Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts.”
The Sutter Quilt Auction has raised more than $550,000 since it started in 1999. The quilts come from all over the United States and from Canada and sell for a wide range of prices. Those that are not sold are donated to patients.