WITHIN A HAIR OF A MILLION: A polar bear pelt and a lost beard help Longyearbyen raise 999,798 kr. for annual TV auction – and another first per-person donation win nationally


Update (5:30 p.m. Monday): It appears local donations will indeed top one million kroner due to additional money collected by Longyearbyen students and residents in Ny-Ålesund. Story below is updated with details.

Original story: By now it barely qualifies as news Svalbard finished first for yet another year among 423 municipalities in a nationwide TV auction fundraiser, but a few numbers are likely to raise eyebrows: the local total of 999,798 kroner is about 100,000 kroner more than last year, with some new fund raisers supplementing the usual intense efforts of regulars.

Yet it’s 202 kroner short of one million, which might trigger thoughts of how every individual can make a difference. But apparently not for long, since the “official” total listed as of Sunday night doesn’t include some late-arriving funds.

“I know that there is more money to come,” wrote Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, lead organizer of the local campaign for many years, in an interview via Facebook. “Students from the high school are doing/have done some work, and there is money coming from Ny-Ålesund…they have collected 52,000+ from their own auction.”

Regardless of the over/under of that landmark number, this year’s local fundraising topped last year’s in two other ways. The 420 kroner raised per resident topped the 411.45 kroner last year. Also, the per-resident total was 83 kroner higher than the second-place community (Utsira at 337 kroner), compared to a 20-kroner difference last year (Bokn at 391 kroner).

“I’m thinking I’m incredibly lucky that I have been allowed to roam around and help raise another million for a good cause,” Sandvik wrote in a Facebook post shortly after midnight Sunday.

“We are at the top, on the globe, literally, and the top result is due to all small and large contributions during a hectic month.”

Svalbard’s first-place finish in the fundraiser is due largely to a month of community activities in Longyearbyen leading up to the TV auction on NRK that this year took place Sunday. Happening on the same day was a local traditional auction at Kulturhuset that raised more than 640,000 kroner thanks to a range of exotic Svalbard-themed items that typically sell for high prices, including the usual final item of a polar bear pelt, which this year was sold to Kristian Angen 80,000 kroner.

“I really wanted that skin,” Angen told Svalbardposten, adding he plans to add it to other pelts on his living room wall from animals he has hunted in Svalbard.

A larger number of auction items, and/or more attendees, may be at least some of the reason for the overall increase, Sandvik noted. On the other hand, she said door-to-door collections on Sunday totaled less than 50,000 kroner, which “is the smallest amount I’ve seen.”

A major new contributor this year was Svalbard Folk High School, which started operations earlier this year and raised more than 100,000 kroner – a goal set by Espen Klungseth Rotevatn, the school’s founder (and Sandvik’s son-in-law), who promised to shave his rather prominent beard if the total was reached.

A total of 221 million kroner was raised nationwide. The funds will be donated to CARE, a Norwegian non-profit organization, to help women and children struggling in developing countries.