One of my favorite events that happens annually is the Dump & Run, a massive charity thrift sale put on by the University YMCA. There was no D&R last year due to COVID, so I was very excited to attend this year. Of course, I can’t buy every great and amazing treasure I come across, so here dear readers is the authoritative rundown of all the best (and a few of the worst) things I DIDN’T purchase at this year’s YMCA Dump & Run.


A yellow-green banner with the YMCA logo and the words Dump & Run in black block letters. It's stretched between two metal poles stuck in a grassy area. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

First of all, if you’ve never been to a D&R, I need to tell you about the venue. This sale takes place in the University of Illinois Stock Pavilion. This is one of the oldest buildings on campus, and it’s a favorite of mine because it’s the building that looks the most like a gladiatorial coliseum. I think it was constructed as a place to show and judge livestock, not to make them fight to the death, but I’m not completely sure.

The inside of a stock pavilion. The floor is filled with people and tables covered with various items. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

The Stock Pavilion is NOT air conditioned so you will be sweating your butt off as you wander around the Dump & Run offerings, bodily clutching whatever items you just can’t live without.

There is a lot to peruse at any Dump & Run (in a past year they measured and had nearly 30 tons of stuff donated and up for sale), but I always start with the art area. Each year, some truly one-of-a-kind art pieces show up at the D&R, and if you don’t act fast you’ll miss them. The highlight for me this year was this trippy panda painting.

A canvas painted with a blue background and a black and white panda on a patch of grass with a stem of green bamboo. . Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Why is the bamboo glowing? Why is her head shaped like a weird yam? I truly hope this panda found a loving home.

The worst thing in the art area is this extensive collection of inspirational signs.

A collection of wood block signs with black backgrounds and inspirational phrases in white lettering. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

They’re priced separately, but obviously you would have to buy the whole set and put them up in your #girlboss office.

Next, on to the very sizable kitchenware section of the sale. Here’s a t-shirt-shaped cake pan that has bafflingly never been used.

Close up of a cake pan shaped like a t-shirt. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

But “LOOK HOW EASY!” I did not buy this pan even though it’s extremely versatile and could be used for nearly any occasion. For Halloween just make a t-shirt cake with spiders on it. For Easter just make a t-shirt cake with eggs on it. The possibilities are endless!

Child Tom loved this fighter jet spoon.

Close up of a blue plastic spoon shaped like an airplane. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Adult Tom also loved it, but I decided I would rather spend the 10 cents on beer instead of a fighter jet spoon. (Adulthood really is a tragedy.)

There were many, many deviled egg plates available at this year’s Dump & Run, however the best one by far was this one with the adorable hens.

A blue deviled egg dish with two white hens in the center. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Speaking of Halloween, I was very close to buying these plastic jack-o-lantern wine cups. If there were like six of them I would have snatched them up for future Halloween parties, but there were only two. So, really good for those romantic Halloween dinners with your significant other but not much else.

Close up of a clear orange plastic wine glass with a jack o lantern face. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

The worst thing on the holiday table was this camouflage nutcracker. This nutcracker is taking the ongoing war with the Mouse King a bit too seriously and we’re all worried about him.

A nutcracker figure wearing camouflage. It is sitting on a table of other Christmas decorations. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Few know about it, but the Dump & Run does have a grocery section as well. Here’s the entirety of the foodstuffs on offer in 2021. (Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: that’s two whole, unopened boxes of ziti, gluten-free lasagne noodles, iodized salt, and a whole bag of Rural King brand mints.)

A table with assorted food items. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Heaps of great furniture available every year at the D&R. Here’s a pic of the couch with the most personality.

An old sofa with a floral pattern. It is sitting on a wood chip covered floor. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

How could I have possibly passed up this HEAVY DUTY FLOOR MACHINE that's older than I am? Well somehow I did.

A large circular metal machine labeled Photo by Tom Ackerman.

In the electronics section, the best item by far was this very retro combination clock radio and landline telephone. What more could you need from a device? For a moment I strongly considered kicking my smart phone to the curb and just using this thing, but then I remembered that I’m a modern guy and need the internet in order to live.

A dusty rectangular vintage clock radio. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Sidebar: the appliances and electronics all had notes on them saying if they were tested and if they worked or not. The best such note I found all day was this one on a toaster oven:

A green sign that says D&R Electronics at the top. The make and model as listed, and under problems/issues it ways Photo by Tom Ackerman.

“Works, but dirty,” an amazing sentiment. I’m changing my resume immediately to just say exactly this and nothing more.

The Dump & Run of course has a large selection of books. Like the rest of the items at this event, many of them are quite dated, but in the best possible way.

Look, two original “Magic Eye” books!

Two magic eye books, one with a blue cover and one with a red cover. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

If I were a student living in a U of I dorm, I would absolutely buy these and blow my friends’ minds. (I’m very confident that no 19-year-old knows about Magic Eye pictures).

Since this is put on by the YMCA in a firmly midwestern city, there is a lot of Christian paraphernalia on offer. The best Christian thing I found at the D&R was “The Adventure Bible” which we all must agree is a “whole vibe.”

A bible with a blue cover and pink, green, and purple wavy lines. It says Kids Adventure Bible in yellow block lettering. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

From the clothing area, I loved this vintage vest but it was too short for me! It was like a crop vest, which is not really a look I want for myself.

A puffy vest with snaps and color blocks in yellow, rust, and coral. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Watermelon flats? WATERMELON FLATS!

Women's flats that are green and pink with black jewels, made to look like watermelon. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

ENGLAND?!? ENGLAND!!!

A light pink hat with England in rhinestones. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

I know this column is supposed to be about what I didn’t buy, but I just can’t leave you without letting you know the best things I did buy.

These rocks glasses with vintage airline logos are all completely rad and cost me under a dollar each. I will cherish them forever.

Three clear glasses with airline logos in blue. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

These very different commemorative plates celebrating the founding of Rantoul and Champaign are both perfection in their own way.

Two plates: one with gold plating and one that is white ceramic. Photo by Tom Ackerman. Photo by Tom Ackerman.

I always love to see my boy Bobby Rantoul show up on things (this is a joke, I did not know Rantoul was named after an actual person before I saw this plate). Anyway, these works of art will have a place of prominence in my apartment from now on. I plan to cherish them forever, and possibly beyond that.

Now that I’ve got you all HYPED UP for the YMCA Dump & Run, I regret to inform you that this year’s event is long over. You’ll have to wait until August 2022 to find amazing deals like the ones I found. Follow the Y on Facebook to keep up on all their events and services.

Top photo by Tom Ackerman.