By Bonny Corbeil
The spirit of Thanksgiving — where we are reminded to be grateful for all of the abundance in our lives — has just passed, hopefully leaving us full of more than just turkey and the trimmings.
The experience of gratefulness ignites our conscious awareness inwards, towards the deeper spirit of the Christmas season — helping us access the power of love and joy when we choose to give to those less fortunate!
For those folks who deeply appreciate the incredible gifts of unconditional love and loyalty that animals bring into their lives — that giving is focused on animals in need.
“Christmas for the Animals” was born out of a few caring individuals who began this special tradition and this year’s celebration will be on Saturday December 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. at “Villa Poseidon’s Secret” in Chocolate Hole.
A Little History:
Apparently this informal fund raiser began in the early 70s on St. John with a handful of dedicated locals caring for the multitude of suffering animals seen everywhere. As with so many volunteers who later followed, these folks searched for a way to find the funds to feed stray, hungry, homeless animals and pay for immediate medical needs. The tradition of “animal lovers parties” — where each person prepared food and drinks at their own costs, invited neighbors and friends and then accepted donations for their efforts in helping animals — was born.
Betty Gerhardt, an ACC past president instrumental in building our present ACC structure, recalls seeing a very old handwritten report outlining such a party animals to raise money. It is a testimony to the kindness and dedication that original islanders had for needy animals.
According to Betty, these parties progressed not only as an opportunity to raise funds but also an opportunity for Island women to dress up and wear their best high-heel shoes!
As many volunteers know, catching animals for spaying, neutering, walking dogs, feeding homeless cats, cleaning out cages, simply does not afford the opportunity to simply enjoy oneself and reflect on the good works accomplished!
Much of these “hands on” dedicated volunteers experienced both sadness and attachment because of their personal involv-ed as well. Working with homeless, sick or abused animals can be emotionally wearing.
What could be better than a cocktail party — with good food and a community of people who have a passion for helping animals — sharing an evening of good stories along with expressions of the good works done for a heartfelt common cause?
The first informal Christmas fund raiser for animals clearly remembered was hosted in 1999 by Bob Nellis at his home “Rain-bow Plantation”.
Betty Gerhardt along with Mia Mongie and Enjil worked very hard on this Christmas fund raiser. Mia Mongie hosted the event for the following two years at her home and in 2002 it was held at the home of Elise Rose and her husband Stan.
Betty with her graphic skills at Scandic Executive Services really began to include the wider community with her professional invitations; flyers and advertisements resulting in it being officially named “Christmas for The Animals.”
That was exactly what it was — a time to share the spirit of giving and pass it on to animals in need at Christmas!
Last year’s 2005 event was held at the beautiful “Villa LaSusa” in Peter Bay and hosted by ACC Board Member Suzanne Kirk along with her husband Larry.
It was a grand event at one of the most beautiful Villa’s on St. John! All of our island restaurants participated in highlighting their specialties. Both Premier Wines & Spirits and Bellows International from St. Thomas offered wine pairings with music by Rich Greengold.
The highlight of this event for many was seeing the ACC homeless kittens hanging from their wee hammocks watching with interest, reminding everyone of why we were all in attendance! In fact homes were found for a number of kittens that very night. As with the original tradition of “Christmas for the Animals” it was all about the love of animals.
This years important fund raising event will prove to be another success because of the involvement of dedicated animal lovers on St. John along with the usual generosity of our local businesses.
ACC Vice President BJ Harris of St. John Properties and is chairing this event with help from ACC Board members.
This Year’s Event:
“Christmas for the Animals” is on Saturday, December 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. It is an island fancy cocktail party and will be held at “Villa Poseidon’s Secret” in Chocolate Hole. The use of this beautiful Villa has been generously offered by owner William Neill.
There will be shuttle service available to avoid parking problems. More details to follow.
Caneel Bay Resort will be creating wonderful hors d’oeuvres and desserts with special pairings by both Premier Wines & Spirits and Bellows International of St. Thomas who annually support this important community event. It is a great opportunity to taste new wines and products by these professionals.
Music will be provided by the Love City Pan Dragons — our traditional way to usher in the tropical
Christmas season with the echo of steel pans floating through our trade wind breezes.
BJ Harris says that a “Tropical Palm Tree” — fully decorated and ready to go — will be auctioned. She is requesting door prize donations from local businesses. If you’d like to support this benefit please call ACC Board Member Nancy Louis at 693-9951.
Betty Gerhardt is busy again creating our event posters and tickets. Look for them throughout town.
Tickets are on sale for a $100 donation. They can be purchased from both Connections locations, St. John Properties, our ACC and board members.
We are hoping to sell all 150 tickets this year to help us meet our ACC monetary needs. If you are unable to attend yet want to help donate to “Christmas for the Animals” in the spirit of giving we welcome any and all donations in our goal to support our work with animals on the island.
Let’s ignite this season’s true Spirit of giving by attending or purchasing a ticket to support this St. John traditional “Christmas for The Animals” event!