On June 22, the second annual Gorilla Gala was held at A Bit Better Farm. We are so lucky to have such wonderful friends that once again allowed us to unleash our crazy gorilla-loving antics on their farm! Our goal for this year's Gala was to do two things: Have even more fun and raise even more money for our two favorite gorilla conservation groups: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and The Ellen Fund. As you may know, the first project of The Ellen Fund is to build a permanent home for the Fossey Research Center in Rwanda. Both of these organizations have been so wonderful and having their support has really validated my ability to make a difference. So, on to the fun of the day...
We had some really cool prizes at last year's Gala but this year, there were even more! We had fantastic silent auction prizes, such as King Kong Broadway tickets, Washington Nationals tickets, a drawing of a gorilla done by an fifteen year old named Gavin Minard, signed copies of The One and Only Ivan (one of my favorite books ever!), an Ellen Fund Plushie & Poster and many more. There were also many raffle prizes, such as Fredrick Keys baseball tickets, MyIntent Bracelets, Maryland Zoo tickets, and many other wonderful prizes. I am thankful for every single sponsor and donor.
I think the most popular activity at this year's Gala was the dunk tank. We had many people lined up to make there shot at the target. Even though the water was freezing cold, it was still extremely fun to get dunked, and I should know because I got dunked over 20 times! Being in the dunk tank was definitely my favorite part of the day. Even our friend Mr. Gorilla got in and got dunked...A LOT!
There were several gorilla-themed games for our guests including a race-type game with gorilla hands and these funny gorilla masks. Gorilla Bingo was a lot of fun to play, especially because of you won Gorilla Bingo, you would be rewarded with a gift card, and everyone likes gift cards! Instead of calling numbers, we called key gorilla terms like "conservation," "Virunga," "cell recycling," and "deforestation." The pie walk (think cake walk, but with pie!) was another fun activity that people took part in throughout the day. The pie walk was a way for us to incorporate last year's Pie-Face theme into the day (and no one had to get pied!) We called this station of the Gala "Uganda Get Pied."
Not only were there games, but there were also crafts and face-painting at the "Crafting in the Congo" station. People could create an "If I Met A Gorilla" craft, which I think is really cool because it shows people the similarities and size difference between a gorilla hand and a human hand. One other craft was a paper plate gorilla face, which I think turns out super adorable. However, my favorite craft was the Pledge Tree. The Pledge Tree gave people the opportunity to find a way that they can help save gorillas, and then commit to that action. The things that I pledged to do were to go meatless one day a week, to buy and use recycled products, and to recycle all of my old cellphones. I am very happy with the way the Tree turned out. It started off as a bare and ugly tree, but know it is filled with pledges, and it's the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.
In the middle of the event, I thanked everyone for coming, and explained why gorillas mean so much to me. I was really nervous at first because I'm not the most experienced public speaker, but in the end it went really well. My mom also surprised me with a special letter written to me by Casey Rogers, the Director of The Ellen Fund.
Unlike the 2018 Gorilla Gala, there was not painting done by a gorilla as a prize, but I did come home with one given to me by Dave Singer that day. Before Dave gave me the painting, he said some really nice things about my efforts to save gorillas, which really inspired me to keep going, and no matter what I think, I really am making a difference in the world of gorillas. Getting the painting was really cool because it's truly amazing to own something that was actually touched by a real gorilla! I've added it to my Gorilla shelf!
As the event wrapped up, I was sad that it was over, but proud of the work that was put into such a fun event. I am so thankful to the many many people who helped make this day possible. Our friends the Mansfields, Williams and Caldieras for sharing their farm with us. I'm thankful to all of the adult and student volunteers that helped run the stations. I'm thankful to all of the many donors who contributed prizes for the silent auction and raffle. And mostly I'm thankful to every single person who came! I hope they all had fun and learned a little osmething about the coolest animal on the planet! I couldn't believe that we had raised so much money, and that so many people showed up to help this cause. We raised over $2,100 and then split those funds between The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and The Ellen Fund. It was a day that I will never forget and I can't wait to do it again next year!