Last Saturday morning, I raced around like a mad woman all over the city.
I had very good reason to, because in a mere few hours, I was about to embark on a first in my life - producing, hosting, and performing at an animal advocacy benefit. The idea was a teeny tiny seed that popped up into my head a few months ago: since Steve and I were planning a big move to the west coast in the fall, I wanted to give something huge back to the community that has given me so much. Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, and the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, NY, were two organizations who had completely reaffirmed my belief in veganism and in how important it is to be the voice for the countless innocent and defenseless animals being tortured on factory farms. I've volunteered, and even almost interned, at Farm Sanctuary, and I was fortunate enough to visit Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary back in October with Steve. I wanted to create a night to celebrate them, to support them, and to allow them to raise awareness to the public about what brave and heroic work they do.
But I was terrified - who would come to this thing? How was I going to pull off a first-time benefit? What if I didn't raise enough money? What if no one would like my ideas?
See, fear is a natural deterrent in life. You can fear failure, success, or if you're me, you can fear something as simple as being stuck in the dark (been that way since I was a kid - stupid horror movies). The fear I was feeling with this was very real - and it was keeping me from taking the leap to organize the benefit of my dreams.
Steve capturing it all on tape...
But then I started Cami Walker's 29 Day Giving Challenge. I began giving away one gift a day for 29 days - gifts as small as a hug or kind thought, or as big as a large donation to someone in need. And my heart began to open up to possibility. And I began to feel less afraid about my idea or about who would help me pull this off. It's amazing how giving can lead you to feel comfortable in receiving.
The highlights of receiving included (but were definitely not limited to):
- David Benzaquen of Farm Sanctuary, and Jenny Brown and Rebecca Moore of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, graciously donated their time, emotional support, and efforts to the weeks leading up to the big night, and of course, on the big night.
- Alicia FREAKIN' Silverstone blogged about my event on her website, The Kind Life!! Even better than that, I will have a chance to personally thank her for her support this Sunday, when I take one of the raffle winners to her to have The Kind Diet personally signed by Alicia!! Rock on!!
The raffle table
I set a date - March 6th. I prayed the people I contacted about helping and performing would be available. They were. I prayed that both sanctuaries would be able to come and speak that night. They were. I prayed that people would buy tickets and come to this little benefit of mine. And man, they did.
The day of the event, what I thought would be a thirty - maybe forty? - person event turned into over 100 people on the reservation list alone. Now, my fear was even more real - how was I going to accomodate so many people? Not the worst problem to have when organizing a benefit...
Mama's awesome posters
So, Steve, my insanely awesome husband, and I embarked on a day of buying vegan catering platters from Whole Foods, 25 bottles of vegan wine, and all of the decorations and trimmings we could think of to help make the night special. My insanely awesome mom came in early (all the way from DELAWARE!) with more decorations, raffle prizes she had bought and made to help with the night, and handmade posters to direct people to the show. The rest of my family and Steve's family chipped in money to help us pay for the abundant amount of refreshments we ended up buying, because, well, they're insanely awesome too.
Insanely awesome family
What was the final result of all this?
Over 150 people joined us for Rock It Out.
A few handfuls of generous volunteers came on board to help me with the whole night.
2 amazingly talented photographers - Mr. Michael Bartelle and Mr. Ben Strothmann - donated their time and skills to document the whole thing.
Over 200 baked goods were sold at the bake sale.
Our in-house artist, Stephanie Chisholm, was a huge hit.
Seven rockin performers sang their hearts out over a sea of happy, chatty people.
Melissa Lusk, Matt Roi Berger, and Shaina Taub
Kaylin Lee Clinton with Neimah Djourabchi
Raffles prizes abounded.
And... drum roll please....
We raised 3000 dollars.
Yessiree, 3000 dollars.
After reimbursing for pre-event expenses, tears filled my eyes as Steve counted off how much money would go to each sanctuary. When I had begun this whole thing, my dream was to hand a thousand bucks to each sanctuary. Well, this week, we will be sending checks for $1300 to each sanctuary.
What may be even cooler than the money we raised is the fact that we raised a crazy amount of awareness about the cruelty going on for these animals, how very important it is to adopt a vegan diet, and how desperately needed each person's individual food and life choices are.
The next morning, Steve and my family went out to brunch, and something magical happened - we spent hours discussing the plight of farm animals, the benefits (and challenges) of a vegan diet, and animal rights in general. I was blown away by how the conversation never seemed to end - everyone was interested in talking more about it. And it's experiences like this that show me I need to keep going with my own activism. Because there is such a thing as a ripple effect, and boy, have I seemed to make a lot of ripples. :)
So, like a proud mama, I am feeling empowered, joyous, and so very thankful on this rainy, Saturday morning in March. Because not only did I manage to make this all happen, but more people than I can count helped me take what was once a teeny tiny seed and make it into something bigger than I could have ever imagined.
Thank you to everyone who lent a hand in making this night possible. You have made this little vegan lady supremely giddy and - best of all - hopeful about our world again.
** All photographs above are courtesy of the tremendously talented Michael Bartelle and Ben Strothmann. **