Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pet lovers give from the heart

Annual benefit deemed ?huge success?


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Sherry Daech, center, tries to keep a handle on Jack, center-bottom, during the Parade of Dogs. Photo by Dana DuGan

As parties that head to the dogs go, this was a honey.

The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley Summer Benefit was held Tuesday, July 31, and surpassed benefits in years past both in attendance and outcome. Animal lovers roamed the grounds next to Trail Creek Cabin in Sun Valley under bright, sunny skies while eagerly pouncing on handmade birdhouses and the other silent auction items. Dinner and a live auction, emceed by Larry Flynn, were held in the Trail Creek Pavilion at capacity with 367 people in attendance.

"It was a huge success," said the shelter's new executive director, Jo-Anne Dixon. "It's our primary fundraiser of the year for the yearly budget. It's how we pay for our day-to-day operations and how we function."

The event raised slightly more than $300,000 for the area's only animal shelter. The programs the proceeds will help fund include the shelter's on-site surgery center where free spay and neuter clinics are held twice a month and the Pet Pals program to train shelter dogs for their new homes.

"We saw a lot of familiar faces. People were very generous, and Sun Valley did such a nice job for us. It's a wonderful venue," Dixon said. "Everyone seemed to walk out with something in their arms whether it was dog and cat toys from the baskets on every table, a birdhouse or another silent auction item."

Every birdhouse sold and almost all were bid up in price, said birdhouse maven Sheila Liermann.

"The comments we received were ones of sheer delight at the uniqueness and creativity," Liermann said. "One birdhouse is being shipped to San Francisco and another will find its home on a filbert (hazel nut) farm in Oregon. Most will stay in the backyards of homes here in the Wood River Valley."

The birdhouses, made by community members, were only one aspect of the giant silent auction, which required an entire tent of its own.

Organized by Jan Main and Kathy Gorsuch, the event featured such a plethora of items that people had to be dragged away by Flynn's insistent countdown.

Among the highlights of the live auction were the cumulative Marmaduke Society Pledges, which equaled approximately $100,000.

The Marmaduke Society is a virtual pet adoption program. Members are gifted on paper one of the homeless pets, and their donations help underwrite the cost of pet care while at the shelter.

Some of the live auction items such as a week in Provence, France, and the fishing trip to Argentina brought on bidding wars with happy endings.

The "I need a home forever" parade of adoptable dogs made patrons downright giddy as the pooches were led by volunteers among dinner tables. One, an Airedale terrier named Traveler, was adopted by one of the attendees at 8 a.m. the following morning.

"It was our best event ever. We had tremendous support," said board president Leslie Luray.

The event directors, Carole Sampson and Rosemary Aquilante, who aren't even board members, worked for a year to make the fundraiser shine.

"My hat also goes off to Sheila Liermann for the birdhouse auction that she orchestrated," Luray said. "Her efforts made it as exciting and successful as it was."

Musician Bruce Innes entertained before and after the live auction.




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