The freshman foursome was prepared to spend up to $2,000 for an opportunity to live in a coveted New Hall quad room next year.
"Our lottery numbers were awful," James said. "We all called our parents complaining, begging them to pay for us to bid on a better lottery number."
As it turned out, they walked away with the No. 1 lottery spot at 9:30 p.m. without laying down a cent at the auction.
Buying almost $50 of raffle tickets, the students contributed to the greatest fund-raising marathon in the event's 33-year history. This year, the Residence Hall Association-sponsored event, dubbed "Martha's Musical Managerie," amassed more than $35,000 for GW housing scholarships next year.
"Martha's was just amazing this year," said RHA President Justin Lavella. "The chairs and RHA members put in an immense amount of time preparing this year's event, which ended up raising almost twice as much money as last year."
The RHA spent less than $2,000 on the event, which featured live music from GW band King James and the Serfs of Swing and free refreshments, he said.
Throughout the evening, students bid on items such as hotel-weekend packages, theater tickets, 30 prepaid phone cards and even an autographed photo of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
All auctioned gifts were donated by a variety of D.C. establishments, including embassies, congressional offices and local businesses, as well as GW administrative offices and student organizations.
Marathon co-chairs, freshmen Shoshana Issac and Laura Shane, contacted more than 1,000 possible donors and put in months of planning for the event with the help of RHA members.
"In the end our goal was to raise money for charity and we definitely exceeded our expectations," Issac said.
Issac credits the raffle with boosting the evening's overall sales. This was the first year the RHA raffled off any spots.
"In past years, there's been a concern that letting all the best housing choices go to people who can afford them is really elitist on (RHA's) part," she said. "Yet not only did the raffle draw even more people to the auction to see if they won, it seemed more fair. Anyone can spare a buck for a lottery ticket and see what happens."
Thrilled with his $40 purchase of lunch for 12 in the Senate Dining Room, junior Anthony Rizzuto gave the event high praise.
"The RHA did a great job putting this together," he said. "We need more events like this to re-inspire the GW community and keep the spirit up."
The Marathon's grand finale was the auction of lottery picks two through 10, donated by the Community Living and Learning Center. The numbers, which have never gone for more than $2,000 each in the past, fetched sums ranging from $2,600 to $4,500 each.
Freshman David Nurnberg, who purchased the third pick for the highest amount, was visibly shaken after he and his roommate, Billy Tagg, won their bidding war.
"I just wanted that New Hall double so badly," he said. "Now I think I'm going to faint."