The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center is offering its first-ever major public party and fundraiser in Clarke County. “The HOOT” will be held on September 22 at Woodley Farm near Berryville, Virginia. Proceeds of the event will be used toward the construction of a new facility and to expand the Boyce, Virginia organization’s outreach.
“The biggest challenges facing BRWC at the moment is the critical need for a new facility and increased funding,” said executive director Jennifer Lee. “We are an extremely successful organization as far as demand for our services but our present facility and funding can just barely meet that demand. We are presently operating out of an 800 square foot, 18th century cottage and just this year have already rescued 1,600 animals from a wide array of different species – raptors and songbirds, rabbits, turtles, opossums, raccoons, foxes, squirrels – the list goes on.”
Lee said that with only one full-time veterinarian, Dr. Belinda Burwell, and just two full-time wildlife rehabilitators, BRWC needs more staff given its daunting workload.
BRWC has also seen an ever-increasing demand for educational programs.
“We presently reach about 5,000 people a year through our programs but the demand is much greater and we would love to be able to fulfill more requests from schools, organizations, camps, and events,” Lee said. “Education and awareness will go a very long way in protecting the future of wildlife.”
Lee said that BRWC currently is based in a small building at the Burwell-van Lennep Foundation’s property outside of Millwood but has recently been granted a generous lease to build a new facility on the property.
“The HOOT hopes to achieve three purposes for our wildlife,” Lee explained. “Spreading awareness about who we are, what we do in the 100-mile radius we serve in eastern WV, southern MD, and DC; giving people an opportunity to donate to the cause by their presence at the HOOT event and through their purchase of unique live auction items; and inspiring people to be more observant and aware of wildlife in their everyday routine and knowing there is a place to go to receive help and advice about wildlife issues.”
“It will also be a great party for people to HOOT it up in support and celebration of this beautiful place we share with our wildlife brethren!” Lee said.
According to Lee, the HOOT auction will include two beautiful oil paintings, a balloon ride for two, a necklace and earring set from a local artisan, a canoe trip for 10 and additional items.
Lee, who took over the financial helm of the BRWC earlier this year, is known for her ability to raise funds through well-organized and usually well-attended fundraisers. The Clarke County Historical Association’s annual “Art-at-the-Mill”, formerly chaired by Lee, has grown to become one of the mid-Atlantic region’s most successful art shows.
Lee hopes to replicate her CCHA financial success for BRWC.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve achieved for BRWC so far is just giving a more consistent, public presence for the Center through outreach – printed materials, on-line vehicles, organization of events – and by supporting the BRWC staff by taking some of the load off them. Planning events such as the HOOT increases awareness, raise funds, and brings the community together to lend a more powerful voice to a cause that many people really care about,” Lee said. “The community’s support is critical in this mission and we already hear them loud and clear and want to be able to respond in the most effective way we can and grow that community.
While BRWC cares for all kinds of injured birds and animals, the HOOT’s official face is that of an injured barred owl that was nursed back to health at BRWC.
“Owls are nocturnal and extremely stealthy and secretive, so people aren’t going to see them nearly as often as hawks and other birds. But they are also more susceptible to threats such as habitat disturbance, development, environmental toxins – like pesticides and herbicides – and certain viruses,” Lee said. “Owl populations are not as prolific and they are extremely territorial. They depend on a protected habitat with a steady food supply (mostly small rodents), and they cannot reproduce as effectively as birds with greater populations and more shared territory. Measures as simple as not littering can help prevent the human-wildlife “conflicts” we see that result in owls becoming our patients. Just throwing an apple core out your car window will bring a mouse to or near the road to eat the apple and that mouse brings the owl and then that owl meets your pickup. A lot of things we do, even unknowingly, can have a profound and often deadly impact on one animal – one animal who is a link in the chain of the entire ecosystem.”
To purchase HOOT tickets visit www.BlueRidgeFallRaces.com. Tickets are $35/person if purchased by September 15, $40 thereafter.
“Kids are welcome and $10 each – pay for them at the gate,” Lee said. “I’m encouraging people to get tickets ahead of time so I can get an idea of how much food & drink to order but people are always welcome to at the last moment and purchase tickets at the gate.”