Champagne and Cheetahs in California

  • by Justin Birkhoff August 7, 2018
Champagne and Cheetahs in California

July marks the end of my first two months as Development Manager for CCF. I am excited to be a part of the CCF team and as I get to know CCF’s volunteers in California, I am continually amazed at how dedicated they are to CCF’s mission of saving the cheetah in the wild.

My first big project was helping to coordinate the 3rd Annual Champagne and Cheetahs Celebration, hosted by Susan Janin, CCF’s Board of Directors Chair. The private event was hosted in Susan’s home. Invitees were selected for their passionate support of conservation. Susan along with CCF staff, volunteers and an ambassador cheetah all worked together to bring guests a greater understanding of the cheetah, the threats it faces in the wild, and the work CCF does to help save the species.

Champagne and Cheetahs had its biggest turn-out in its third year, with seventy-five guests in attendance on July 14th. We were able to raise funds to support our programs through the silent auction, cheetah and wild dog sponsorships, and a donor call-to-action. A group of several dedicated donors in the Bay Area put forward a match of up to $25,000 which really helped inspire others to contribute at the event. The Champagne and Cheetahs Celebration is a key event that occurs during the Chewbaaka’s Wild Cheetah Challenge, our annual matching campaign when all donations received from July 1st to August 31st are doubled up to $225,000, funds that are put forward by our Chewbaaka Challengers. By hosting Champagne and Cheetahs during the Chewbaaka’s Wild Cheetah Challenge we maximized each donation.

The first surprise that greeted guests was a beautiful cheetah shaped cake courtesy of Kathy from Kathy’s Creative Kakes, located in the foyer. It was quite the hit, and it seemed that every guest took a picture of the cake, if not with it. It was the sort of creation that begged the question if it really should be cut. When we finally decided to cut it later on it proved to taste just as amazing as it looked and more than one person decided seconds was a fantastic idea. The presentation from Suzi Eszterhas was another highlight, featuring not only her award-winning wildlife photography but her tremendous story telling with a few humorous vignettes.

Themba, an ambassador cheetah, was quite the hit, providing an opportunity for everyone to see a cheetah up close. For some it was revisiting experiences from their past, and others the first time they were sharing space with a cheetah. The magnificent Themba was presented by Rob and Barbara Dicely of the Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund. He serves as an ambassador for his species, providing a tangible presence and playing part in an engaging presentation about cheetahs, their natural history and conservation. As always the Dicely’s presentation was fun and engaging and left room for questions from the audience. New and old cheetah friends met each other and were able to discuss some of their personal experiences with CCF’s work in Namibia.

At the event we announced a new relationship with Ross Halleck of Halleck Vineyards link to internal Halleck blog. Halleck Vineyards is a family-owned vineyard located in Sebastopol, CA. Ross was on hand pouring several of his vintages, and a percentage of all wine sold during the event was donated back as part of Halleck Vineyards ‘evergreen giving’ program. We are very excited that our partnership is extending beyond Champagne and Cheetahs as Halleck Vineyards will be donating a percentage of the sales to CCF from three wines on their site.

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