USA 25TH Anniversary Fall Tour

  • by Dr. Laurie Marker October 10, 2015
USA 25TH Anniversary Fall Tour

My recent tour of the U.S. was a most exciting continuation of CCF’s 25th Anniversary celebration. I was thrilled to return to the U.S. with the support of my CCF Board, Chapters and staff all who hosted events in 24 cities and 11 states as well as in Toronto and London, Canada.

I began my six-week tour in Northern California with our first cheetah fundraiser at the Savannah Chanelle Winery in Saratoga. It was a lovely kick-off event celebrating our anniversary with a VIP wine tasting, a lecture assisted by cheetah ambassador, Themba, from the Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund and a silent auction supported by 95 guests from the Bay Area.

In September, I had the pleasure of attending both the AZA and Zoo Association Conservation Conference (ZACC) zoological conferences in Utah and Colorado. At AZA, I gave a lecture about International Cheetah Day and how zoo partners can participate in raising public awareness for the cheetah. My lecture in Denver described how our work in biofuels and goat cheese can save cheetahs = and lead to sustainable development. We also had the opportunity to boost awareness at each conference with CCF information booths manned by our staff and local volunteers. I want to thank everyone for their kind support in helping us further our mission at these important zoo conferences.

During my stay in Northern California I had the opportunity to address audiences at Safari West, UC Santa Cruz and Cal Polytechnic University. And, it was a pleasure to see all my conservation colleagues and meet people passionate about saving our planet at the annual Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) Expo of which we are one of the original Fellows of this organization. I also did several book signings with Suzi Eszterhas and my book A Future for Cheetahs.

In Southern California, I had the wonderful experience of being hosted at the La Jolla Country Club by members of The Charter One Hundred group. CCF Ambassador Jordan Sack of Jordan Art Couture arranged the special luncheon event highlighting CCF’s past 25 years of cheetah conservation.

On the other side of the country, CCF Trustee Christine Osekoski arranged a special ladies’ dinner with the Eleven Charity members at the Gander Restaurant in New York City featuring Iron Chef Jesse Schender. It was exciting to meet new cheetah supporters on the east and west coasts and to spread the message of cheetah conservation.

I also had the opportunity to see many cheetah friends that I have not seen in years and make some new ones at luncheon and dinner events hosted by CCF Board members and supporters in Seattle, St. Louis, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Denver. I had a great time visiting everyone and reconnecting.

It was a delight to have four 25th anniversary ambassador cheetah events and galas on this tour to help raise critical operating funds for CCF. All of the events where well attended and contributed greatly to the cause.

The first gala was CCF’s annual Big Cat. Big Party. in Portland organized by CCF’s Oregon Chapter lead by Chapter Chair Laura Harris. It was held once again at the Oregon Zoo with dinner committees generously hosting tables and attendees purchasing live and silent auction items contributed by supporters including Howard Hedinger and the Greater Portland business community and several of my international veterinary research collaborators who happened to be in Oregon at the same time. Local animal celebrity duo Pancake, a cheetah cub, and her best canine friend, Dayo, of Wildlife Safari made an appearance to liven up the evening. I must say they were quite a big hit!

Following closely on the heels of this event, I flew to the East Coast for a private event in Poughkeepsie, New York, hosted by CCF Trustee Paola Bari and Jeff Aman and CCF’s New York Chapter at the residence of Theodora and Roy Budnik. This was an exciting evening with added support from the Columbus Zoo and ambassador cheetah BiBi. It was delightful to introduce CCF to over 70 new cheetah friends from the local area. From upstate New York, I traveled to New York City to give an anniversary dinner and lecture at the Explorers Club on October 20th. It was great to see all our cheetah friends in the city and to have the added support of the New York CCF Chapter and CCF Trustee Richard Wiese of ABC Television’s Born to Explore, who introduced me. The Leo Zoo was prepared to bring their ambassador cheetah Adaeze to the Explorers Club, but due to last minute permitting issues, we had to cancel the VIP cheetah portion of the program. We will try to make this happen next year.

My last stop before returning to Namibia was in Washington, DC, where we held CCF’s Annual Board meeting at the Cosmos Club. It was well-attended with many members flying in from all parts of the country. After 10 years of passionate dedication and commitment, it was an exceptionally touching moment as Dr. Stephen O’Brien stepped into his new role as CCF Chairman Emeritus after 10 years as CCF Board Chair and passed the baton to CCF Board Member, Woodrow Garmon of Houston, Texas. We presented Dr. O’Brien with an engraved bronze cheetah for his many years of service.

It was a distinct pleasure to see everyone supporting CCF and participating in the annual DC Gala at the law offices of Foley & Lardner which overlook the Potomac in Georgetown. CCF DC Chapter members and volunteers did a wonderful job coordinating the event, together with the continued support of CCF Trustee Suzi Rapp from the Columbus Zoo. This year, Suzi brought her ambassador cheetah Zemba. CCF Ambassador Sally Davidson kindly catered the DC Gala again this year, with delicious food provided by 1789 Restaurant. Approximately 200 guests were in attendance.

I must send a special thanks to my colleagues in conservation and cheetah science who came together and joined me at The National Zoo for a public cheetah seminar to mark CCF’s 25th anniversary. I am grateful to everyone who traveled many miles to participate in Oct. 21 event: Dr. Stephen O’Brien; Dr. Bruce Brewer, CCF’s General Manager; Dr. Suzan Murray, Dr. Adrienne Crosier, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, and Dr. Warren Johnson from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Smithsonian’s Conservation and Biology Institute (SCBI); Dr. Debborah Luke of AZA; Mary Wykstra of Action for Cheetahs in Kenya; and Suzi Rapp and Wouter Stellaard from the Columbus Zoo. A big cheetah thanks to CCF Trustee Gary Kopff and Judy Kopff for helping organize the event and hosting a lunch meeting for the group at their Cleveland Park home.

I am so very grateful to have the type of support over these 25 years that makes all of our educational events and fundraising opportunities possible. I look forward to continuing to work together to further the CCF mission in coming year.

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