LaViolette foundation’s latest fundraiser captures worldwide attention

A plastic Swatch owned by Pope Francis has a $20,000 bid
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 4:02 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Online bidding is underway for the “Once Upon a Time Watch Project” auction to raise funds for the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation.

The watches, from famous donors or their estates, will ensure the foundation’s legacy carries on for generations to come.

Over the last 30 years, the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation has presented more than 1,000 scholarships to college-bound students throughout the world. Now, the foundation is in the midst of its greatest fundraising mission to date.

“Very exciting,” says Doug LaViolette, foundation president. “It’s very rewarding and it’s very nerve-racking, I mean, it really is because the whole world sees everything.”

Though he was just 15 years old when he died in a tragic swimming accident, Brian Laviolette had a love of watches. Two years ago, inspired by his late son’s collection, LaViolette launched The Watch Project and began reaching out to celebrities, sports stars, heads of state and even Pope Francis, asking if they would donate their watches.

The response has been simply overwhelming.

“They’ve had, as you know, many fundraisers over the years, and I’ve participated in all of them, but this takes the cake,” says Victoria Parmentier, a longtime foundation supporter and past board member.

Parmentier, who donated a Rolex to the foundation, is amazed as she follows the online bidding.

“I told Doug I’m stuck on watching that website. I have it up on my computer at the office, at home, I look at it all the time. And most especially what the pope’s watch is going for, it’s just amazing,” says Parmentier.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 22, the bid for the pope’s Swiss watch -- a plastic Swatch -- sits at $20,000.

There are also watches once owned by Kenny Rogers, Betty White, Jerry Lewis, Tony Shaloub, Condoleeza Rice, Priscilla Presley, Mason Crosby, Joe Theissman, Dick Vitale, and dozens more.

Those who’ve known the LaViolette family for decades say they continue to be amazed by their commitment to the foundation and its mission.

“It’s incredible. I’m not sure that many people could do that, and everybody can relate because there can be nothing worse that could happen to a parent than to lose a child, especially in such a tragic way,” says family friend and foundation supporter Michael Calawerts.

Online bidding for the 50 watches up for auction will continue until November 30. You can follow along at On that day, a live auction will be held at Rago/Wright in Chicago, which is donating its services so all the proceeds go to the foundation.

“This money is going to go into the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Endowment Fund, so the money is going to perpetuate the foundation when we’re out of time and we’re long gone,” says LaViolette with a smile.

During the live auction on November 30, a watch party (pun intended) will be held at The Automobile Gallery in Green Bay starting at 10:30 a.m.