Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Play it Again, Sam!

I published a blog last week recalling the success of The Gala. However I'm hearing from people that it is not being seen. It's an add-on to the November 15th blog so it seems to be getting buried. So, to make sure it is seen, here it is again.

P.S. Have a gloriously wonderful Thanksgiving! We all have blessings in our lives. Some are just harder to see, that's all.

Now . . . . settle back and come with me . . . .

It is Friday, November 6th at 4PM. We walk into the University of Minnesota Equine Center to find a horse arena. Simple as that. No tables, no candles, no linens, no food, no horses, no auctions. Just the arena in all its glory.

In a blink it is Saturday, November 7th at 4PM. We walk into the University of Minnesota Equine Center Arena to find tables draped in linens, candles twinkling, crystal water glasses at the tables, a bar serving light wines, tables loaded with silent and live auction goods, music playing, and horses. Yup, right there in the middle of the gala festivities there were horses.

It was sheer brute strength and determination that created that transformation. People from all walks of life and from all geographic areas came together and worked hard. Very hard. But with smiles and good humor. Willing to pick up and move something when asked. Willing to setup and test something when asked. Willing to adjust when I changed my mind. What a crew!

The Annual Fall Gala & Auction was a huge success. Our attendance exceeded my expectations. New friends were met and I was able to put faces with names. Friends that I have worked with over the telephone to save lives were now in the flesh in front of me. Finally. And familiar friends came complete with their warm hugs. It was an evening of memories and hopes. Introductions and rekindlings. The arena was filled with an aire of excitement.

Dave K., our Specialized Farrier, was my companion during The Presentation of The Horses. Miss April was Dave's first escort and she showed us all her new found abilities to buck and kick! What a treat and a thrill to see her so able to move! The next pair were little Unit and huge Handsome. Even the big Handsome trotted a bit to show off his jiggling form! And finally, Lanna and Laddee, The Little Belgian Mare were added to the corral. Five of our best stood for all to pet and marvel at in their condition and their shine. The shine, of course, a result of many hands beginning at 9AM that morning brushing, brushing, and then doing a bit more brushing!

Dinner was wonderful. A good meal with excellent service. The music was a great addition to the ambiance. And the chatter at the tables was robust. The Refuge Farms Volunteers spread themselves around the tables and so insured that questions could be answered and, of course, a few stories could be told.

It was time for me to thank everyone and again, I just had to thank The Volunteers for another year of hard and diligent work. While standing, it was once again told to them that without them, there is no Refuge Farms. Bravo, Volunteers! Bravo for a great year and a remarkable event!

The story of Andy Durco, Jr. and Frances Andrew seemed appropriate. It is just now a decade since THE FARM entertained its first guest. A decade of saving lives and 'specializing' in the diers. A decade of thrills and rescues and hard work and tears. I talked of "Pivot Points" and how these two creatures had literally turned the tide of Refuge Farms. First Andy created it and then Frannie turned it.

It was then that I decided to disclose one that I believe is another Pivot Point of Refuge Farms. Laddee, The Little Belgian Mare. She has a story. A huge and remarkable story that is still unfolding. And I know this horse is a Pivot Point in our history. I know it like I know my name.

The story of Laddee was closed with a video created by Gary S. showing her life since literally dropping out of the skies. The video is set to music and tells us of her journey while with us. I could not look at any of you. I stood partially hidden so I could be free to absorb myself in the music and her story. At times, it was difficult to stand. She is one powerful, magnificent story. A Pivot Point living among us right now.

Dr. Don Hoglund, DVM was given the floor for his story of the White Sands Missile Range Rescue and to give us his insight on how the free-roaming unwanted horse issue is, in fact, creating the domesticated unwanted horse issue. In the days leading up to The Gala, I found Doc to be a remarkable man. Did you know, for instance, that Refuge Farms is the first horse rescue that he has agreed to join for the purposes of fundraising? What an honor we have been given! And did you know that he was in a car accident en route to a radio interview on the Thursday prior to The Gala? An accident that totalled both vehicles and placed the other driver in the hospital?

Yet, not one word about swollen knuckles, scraped and bruised knees, sore backs, aching necks, or feeling "kind of like being just bucked off a horse!" What a strong man. There was a mission to complete and Doc threw his mind to it and completed it. What a remarkable man.

The auctions brought many surprises. Several unique and meaningful pieces of artwork. In fact, I just heard yesterday that one of the photos of The Herd is hanging in Dr. Brian's office! It was a close to a grand evening.

Many thanks to our Emcee, Beth Kidd of WLTE radio. Many thanks to Jeff Hines of Hines Auction Services. Many thanks to Jayne B. for her musical accompaniment. Many thanks to Angie V. of Afton Woods Photography for recording the entire evening with her magical camera. And huge and grateful thanks to Doc Hoglund for his presence and his support.

But I must rethank the volunteers who worked the event. Some of these volunteers, did you know, have never been to THE FARM! Your work to set up the event and then your camaraderie and hard work to tear it all down at 10PM Saturday night. Like I said, what a crew!

The Gala Committee worked for almost a full year on this single evening:

Colleen B. worked tirelessly prior to the event to generate everything from ads to posters to invitations to programs to inserts to bookmarks. She just kept on creating! With each new idea, she smiled and started the process again. It was the smile part that I came to depend upon.

Tracy O. worked to secure Doc for us. That, my friends, was no small feat. Tracy also sent PSA's (Public Service Announcements) to scores of televisions, newspapers, and radio stations. Always looking for angles to increase the publicity.

Heather P. worked hours and hours to secure donations. She worked diligently to fill in the "gaps" as they arose and did a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work to pull it all together. And Heather did this all with a smile and her "can do" attitude.

Rose R. traveled for hours to cities like Red Wing and Hastings to secure donations. Dozens of donation forms and contacts were created in support of this event. And then, as she has in previous years, Rose "owned" the auctions and made sure the baskets were well presented and arranged so all could clearly see.

Kim S. worked to create the road signs that were strategically placed to show the way to The Gala doors.

And Julie G. was the Committee Chairperson who spent days and days on the details. Do not underestimate the amount of detail and the lists upon lists that must be made to convert a horse arena to a gala site. You can only imagine, believe me! But Julie never once said, "No more!" Nope. Instead, she just started another list and found more time in her already packed schedule.

Well done, Committee! Well done, Volunteers! It was a grand evening. I am humbled and proud to be associated with the likes of you!

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

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