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Earnhardt boat brings $83k on eBay

The money paid for the 33-foot express cruiser will go to the Make-A-Wish foundation

A Florida couple soon will welcome several new members into their family, including twin grandchildren and a 33-foot express cruiser.

John and Norma Cavanaugh entered the high bid at auction on a boat previously owned by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The auto racing star donated his 2001 Larson 330 Cabrio to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central & Western North Carolina.

The Cavanaughs entertained the idea of building a second story on their Punta Gorda home to accommodate their ever-increasing family, says Norma Cavanaugh, until Hurricane Charley convinced them otherwise. Buying a boat became more of a priority.

“So now we’re gonna have to sleep outside on the boat,” she jokes.

Boating, Make-A-Wish and the Cavanaughs had crossed paths before. Their grandson Tommy Cavanaugh, 5, was a wish recipient. He went on a Disney Cruise for his wish.

“Make-A-Wish has been wonderful to him during and after his treatments,” Norma says of Tommy, whose rare form of lymphoma is now in complete remission, with a recurrence not likely.

Tommy’s mother is now pregnant with twins, and the family plans to travel to Charlotte, N.C., to receive the keys to the boat from Earnhardt himself.

“It will be quite a scene,” says Norma, laughing.

At the close of the auction Aug. 26, eBay listed a winning bid of $83,100. The charity auction began August 16 with a minimum bid of $50,000.

John Cavanaugh says he and his family found out about the auction while it was in progress, and did not get involved until the next to last day of the event. He says he entered their planned top bid — as high as they were willing to go — moments before the auction ended.

“There was a very active bidding process,” says Jim Maggio, director of communications for Make-A-Wish. “We were very happy. Going down to the wire the bidding became very active.”

Norma Cavanaugh says bidding for the boat was an easy decision to make.“We’ve always wished for a big boat,” she says. “Well, we’ve got it now.” Maggio describes the auction as a very gratifying situation all around.

“Dale Jr. was thrilled that the boat went for such a good price,” says Maggio, “and when he heard that the boat went to the grandparents of a wish recipient, he was even that much more pleased.”

Norma Cavanaugh is pleased with her new boat’s ownership history.

“I’m sure its engines have been tended more lovingly than any other boat,” she says.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a charity that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical