Only a few tickets are left for J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge's annual "Go Wild For Ding" fundraiser. This year's theme is "Give A Hoot," which focuses primarily on Florida's five species of native owls: barn, barred, burrowing, eastern screech and the great horned owl.
"We try to choose birds that we have at the refuge who are some of our fan favorites. This one we chose in conjunction with Doris Hardy's presidency of our board, she's done so much for our board and she's obsessed with owls. It was our way of saying thank you to her," said Carrie Alexander, development director of Ding Darling Wildlife Society.
The event takes place at the newly remodeled Community House Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For the first time this year, the fundraiser has gone green. The invitations are paperless and all of their cups, plates and utensils are compostable.
This life size alligator-heron sculpture by artist Michael Mistler will be up for auction.
CHELLE KOSTER WALTON
The fundraiser will feature five live auction items some of which include a "Ding" excursion with a private refuge tour, a life-size aluminum alligator-heron sculpture by artist Michael Mistler, a limited edition print of Federal Duck Stamp winner Joe Hautman and Jim Sprankle's' sought after hand-carved feather. In addition to the feather, Sprankle has also carved an owl.
"We have a Flock of a Feather Club each year. All of those members are invited to a special gathering of the Flock of the Feather Club. This year, Sprankle is carving a screech owl slider that goes on a necklace and it's also a pin. The slider will make the person who purchases it during the auction the 2018 Head of the Feather Club and then, they help us plan the party next year," said Birgie Miller, executive director of the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.
There will be 60 silent auction items up for grabs which include Disney tickets and even Red Sox tickets. Miller said they will be taking phone calls for both auctions for those who are not able to make it.
"There will be some items that we will feature on our website for those who can't attend. We've had a couple people who called us from the Boston area that wanted to attend but can't. So, we want to do is give a selection of some photos of some of the items that we have and put them up on the site so that if they want to bid on them, they can call us," Miller said.
Live music will be provided by the New Vinyls Band and the food will be donated from Matzalunas, Totally Baked, George & Wendy's Seafood Grille, Bailey's and Queenie's Ice Cream.
All proceeds from the live auction will go towards land acquisition and conservation.
"It's all fun for the good of wildlife. It's a fun event and maybe we're bringing in new people into the fold who have never heard of Ding Darling. They come here and they meet all the other great people who love the refuge and love what's going on here and understand and appreciate the value that the refuge brings for not only the wildlife, but also for the economic impacts of the refuge on this community. We hope that'll understand better what we do and maybe then they'll start coming to our lectures or they'll take walks on Wildlife Drive and become more engaged in wanting to protect and preserve. It's a great way for us to get people excited about what we're doing at the refuge," Miller said.
Tickets are $125 per person and can be purchased by calling (239) 472-1100 ext. 233. Admission is by reservation only.
Sponsors for this year's fundraiser include: Mark and Gretchen Banks; Wayne and Linda Boyd; Jim and Patty Sprankle; George & Wendy's Seafood Grille; Island Inn; Matzaluna; Sarah Ashton and Jim Metzler; Mike and Terry Baldwin; Amanda Cross; Queenie's Ice Cream; Sanibel Catering Company; Totally Baked on Sanibel; Barrier Island Title Services; Doug and Sherry Gentry; Greenwood Consulting Group; Phyllis Gresham; Gulf Coast Landscape Supply; John Grey Painting; Hank and Linda Spire and Tree West LLC.