Sunday, November 16, 2008


A Night to Remember!

I have purposely given myself a span of a full week before I sat down and wrote to you about the Fall Gala Event and our evening with Tony Stromberg. I needed the time to “come back down to earth”. To say the event was a meaningful evening is truly the understatement of the year!

First and foremost, the Gala Committee must be recognized for their willingness to step up, take charge, and just “get ‘er done!” In a window of a mere sixty days, this group of eight women – all with full time jobs and families and responsibilities! – met and planned and emailed and broadcasted and created and did whatever it took to allow Refuge Farms to host an evening of glamour and truly heart-touching messages.

Hats off to Heather P., the Captain of the Committee for her energy and leadership! I am now thoroughly convinced that this woman never sleeps! Hats off to Julie G. for her technical support and her sole creation of the gift bags plus the collection of donated baskets! Hats off to Lauren E. for her printing and expertise that she so willingly brought to the table! Hats off the Colleen B. for continuing to share her artistic talents and for the generation of her framed prints for the auction that made us all smile and made one little girl very, very happy! Hats off to Mary K. who remains steady and constant and always brings her optimism and smiles to each gathering! Hats off to Tracy O. for her hours and hours and hours of media communications which led to our event even in the Regional Notes of the USA Today! And hats off to the Mother and Daughter team of Kim and Brianna S. for their humor and willingness to run – literally! – for the Missions!

Many of us have commented that by hosting this event and being so successful in our first gala that we have set the bar rather high for future events. And I couldn’t be prouder! This is the face of the reformed Refuge Farms. Reaching out to those who care and doing so in a formal environment. Saving lives without standing in a barn. Bravo! Job well done!

The evening was a joy, wasn’t it? Familiar faces and some new faces joined us. I was thrilled to walk amongst the people and hear snippets of conversation about horses in their lives, their visits to THE FARM, about hearing a radio interview on WLTE or seeing a spot on television. The message is consistent and has stood the test of time – Refuge Farms is a horse rescue of those horses most at risk. Tough work but with enormously high rewards.

Our auctions were record setting and once again, setting the bar high for future years. We were complimented repeatedly for the quality of items and the variety of items in both auctions. The legs and hands that gathered those baskets worked very hard and their works were rewarded greatly by the contributions that came in as a result.

Beth Kidd was as warm as I’ve come to know her. Relaxed and so familiar with us from reading literally everything on our website. How do I know this? Her comments and questions at dinner were from the very stories on the website. And when asked about it, she just calmly told me that of course she reads our website. Why wouldn’t she? She was supportive of our efforts and wanting the information and history in her head and heart to retrieve when the opportunities to spread the word presented themselves. Gotta love that woman’s heart…

Jeff Hines did his typically outstanding job of getting those arms up and intermixing his humor with his understanding of our Missions. We have years of history with Jeff and he reminded the entire dinner table of our first auction together at the second Open Barn Event. We had a total of seven items. Seven items! He still laughs when he tells how he walked over to the auction spot and started to look around for the items he was supposed to auction….looking….looking…and then realizing that the few items in front of him was all there was!

Jeff has offered his online bidding through the Hines Auction Service for our future auctions and we will take full advantage of it! In fact, Jeff told us that he has people calling his offices wondering “when is that Refuge Farms auction coming up?” Building history is a good thing…

But truly, for me, the highlight of the evening was to sit and attempt to absorb every single word of the mild mannered young man named Tony Stromberg. His presence put the frosting on the cake, didn’t it? So unassuming and so congenial. So kind in his perspective of the world and all of its craziness around him. And so committed to saving lives by getting his images – and now his words – of horses in danger out there. In front of people. Out there gently and beautifully but still pointedly and sharply.

His message on connection and being on the save level with all creatures was reinforced throughout the evening by his very mannerisms and conversations. I’ve strived to use the concepts this past week in the barns and with Little Man. I’ve worked to think as and behave as the creature I am asking something of. And I’ve even put the question out there and watched as, for some reason, the animal responded to my mind’s request. I believe I have much to learn from Tony Stromberg. Much to hear from him yet. And many of you have told me that very same thing.

Upon arriving home after the gala, I retrieved voice mail messages from people who just had to comment on the evening they had just been a part of. Words in those voice mail messages were words like “touching”, “meaningful”, “heart warming”, “honest”, “encouraging”, “thought provoking”, “enlightening”. Tony left a mark on us all. I thought it most interesting that this group of 120+ people who had dinner plates and chocolate and beverages in front of them stopped everything – everything! – when Tony stood up to speak. My Mom would have commented that “you could have heard a pin drop” in that room. Ears and hearts were open to the man and the man did not disappoint a single one of us!

Emails continue to arrive further discussing Tony’s perspective of disposable actions taken with horses and even people. Emails commenting that his message had been the topic over breakfast and Bible studies throughout the week. But my favorite of all was a rather short email that simply said “…and Tony was everything you said he would be and more!”

After the guests had departed, several of us just sat and chatted about the evening and made plans for a breakfast together the following morning. At the close of the evening, I stood in front of Tony with a heart so overfull of gratitude and compassion and humility and encouragement… I couldn’t find words to express my thanks and my connection to his mission of getting the horse’s plight out there for all to see…

I simply hugged him and clumsily said my thanks. Then I reassured him that the monies we raised at that Gala Event would save lives. We would save lives with that money, I restated. He smiled at me and replied, “That’s why we do it, Sandy. That’s why we do it, isn’t it?”

The man has the heart of the horse within him. You've heard me tell you that and now you know it, too. You’ve met him, talked with him, and you've heard his heart as he unfolded his stories with you. His heart that still breaks for the little mare, Mona Lisa. His heart that feels the need to use his enormous talents to show us that we are wasteful and greedy and selfish and cruel in our strivings for the “perfect horse”. That we need to develop loyalty and compassion and get on the same level with the horse. And there – and only there – will we have a connection, a true relationship, with the majestic creature. The power of the horse. Truly visible in the heart of the man we call Tony Stromberg.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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