Calling for Causes 7

Nigro Brothers Charity Auctioneers Donate Time and Talent

George Nigro has been announcing at auctions and chanting for charity since his teens. Still going strong nearly 40 years later, he and his band of brothers spend several nights a week calling for cash in a city full of philanthropists.

The Nigros’ energy and effort have paid off handsomely.

“We estimate that we’ve raised more than a billion dollars over the years,” George says. That’s a lot of cold hard cash for some people-pleasing partners to rake in. “Basically, we’re just good manipulators.”

The Nigro Brothers Charity Auctioneers typically take the stage on Thursday and Friday nights, sometimes twice on Saturday. The team includes brother David Nigro, former schoolmate Toby Tyler, auctioneer Ron Stricker and rodeo pal Ben Aldridge. Cut from the same cloth, the Western wranglers wear crisp white shirts, matching themed ties and belt buckles the size of fists. It’s always cowboy hats: light straw for summer, black felt in winter. The men enter an auction arena with a high-noon strut, giving the audience the sense they are about to be asked to hand over their money.

For the American Heart Association’s Go for the Red, these salesmen recently raked in a million dollars, selling trips, dinners with chefs and many things fun and dynamic. The crowds, often dressed to the nines, stand ready to donate tens, hundreds, thousands.

“In April, we raised close to $400,000 for Children’s Place,” George says.

He starts out the bidding with “Wha’cha gonna give? How much ya gonna give? Will you give me 50?” While George takes the mic, ringmen David, Toby, Ron and Ben scan the crowd for interest. A raised hand, subtle nod or finger salute signals the bidding has begun. With brisk banter and lightning-quick offers, the Nigros sell their first item and get the show rolling.

When they are not rustling donations, you can find them at their Nigro’s Western Stores on Shawnee Mission Parkway and Merriam Lane. Their father, Tony Nigro Sr., opened the original Nigro’s Western Store in 1956. He also operated a horse and cattle auction in Linwood, Kansas. While taking a course at the Missouri Auction School, Tony brought home his study guide, and George got roped in, too. At age 12, he started learning the cattle rattle, a smooth song which pitches the price and ups the ask harmoniously.

The Nigro brothers conducted their first auction at their high school in Shawnee (now Saint Thomas Aquinas). They learned early how to boost bets and raise eyebrows with their cajoling approach.

“We try to make it fun for everyone. We want to get your attention, get your money and give it to charity,” George says.

They worked for free that first night and have never asked for a raise.

“If it’s for a good cause, we can’t turn anybody down,” George says. “And when you’re free, people love you!”

On a rare slow night, George sweet talks the cautious crowd. “Come on folks; it’s only money! And it’s for the kids!”

Check out these big-hearted buckaroos on Facebook at Nigro Brothers Charity Auctioneers.