"to defray whatever expenses I may be put to" [SPEC]
Whenever folks get their invitations, there's usually a sense of surprise, relief and even trepidation. Yes, trepidation. For some people, attending the Weekend is a difficult and onerous task.
Some simply don't like to be around crowds, or perhaps detest the (often) harsh weather of New York in January. Others boycott for personal reasons. But there are some who simply can't afford the price of the accumulated events and the travel required to get there.
In the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s under Tom Stix, Jr.'s ("The Norwood Builder") term as Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars, Tom created the Dr. John H. Watson Fund, a financial assistance package for the BSI Weekend, and credited it as his most proud achievement of leading the BSI.
The John H. Watson Fund
According to the BSI:
The Dr. John H. Watson Fund offers financial assistance to all Sherlockians (membership in the BSI is not required) who might otherwise not be able to participate in the weekend's festivities. A carefully pseudonymous John H. Watson presides over the fund and welcomes contributions, which can be made by check payable to John H. Watson and sent (without return address on the envelope) to Dr. Watson, c/o The Baker Street Irregulars, at 7938 Mill Stream Circle, Indianapolis, IN 46278; your letters are forwarded unopened, and Dr. Watson will acknowledge your generosity. Requests for assistance should also be mailed immediately to Dr. Watson at the same address, and must be received by December 3 for timely processing of requests.
It is a wonderful resource that enables more people to enjoy one of the most important aspects of our hobby: spending time in the company of like-minded people. And while there are plenty of opportunities around the world to do this on a local level, the BSI Weekend happens just once a year and celebrates a long-standing (83 years!) tradition that was started by Christopher Morley.
Each year, the Fund is self-liquidating, meaning that assistance is granted to whatever extent is possible to the supplicants, and that generous Sherlockians are responsible for replenishing it every year. Traditionally this was done through simple check-writing, but then the BSI Cocktail Reception added an auction and drawing, which also raise money for the Fund. Raffle tickets are sold throughout the weekend for some choice items and Peter Blau, BSI ("Black Peter") holds forth as an auctioneer sine qua non.