2008 FUR BALL – Big Cat Rescue

The big night is almost here for the cats, take a look at what you can expect to enjoy at the 2008 Fur Ball and why your support really is vital to the continued efforts of Big Cat Rescue!

The 2008 Fur Ball

See photos from the Fur Ball at Joe Photo here: www.partypics.com Password – tampajoe Search for Big Cat Rescue

More photos taken by Big Cat Rescuers and Fur Ball guests HERE

Wow!  What a night!  The 9th annual Fur Ball was the best ever according to guests, vendors and our own Big Cat crew.  With the stock market losing 40% of its value in the week before the Fur Ball we didn’t know what to expect.  This is our biggest event of the year and so much work had gone into trying to surpass last year’s record-breaking ball that we were counting down the last hours until show time with heightened anxiety.

Thanks to our awesome Fur Ball committee and an outpouring of generosity from the public our 2008 Fur Ball netted more than $100,000.00.

As the costumed guests poured in the front doors, it was as if they had walked into another world.  Whatever was outside those doors was left there.  As people entered the A La Carte Pavilion their eyes grew wide with wonder at the magical landscape.  Passing through chiffon laden cargo nets, thick foliage and life sized lion and tiger statues that flanked the ballroom’s foyer, transitioned guests to a dream like African plain.  The stage was a mural of lion silhouettes that came alive in the sunset colors of accent lights that created acacia trees on every wall.

The tables were stacked with miniature drums that were made by several schools and a multitude of donors from tin cans and other recyclables.   Little plush lions and tigers representing Joseph, Sasha, Simba and Nakita adorned every table, imploring for adoption.  Even the book that changed my life, and that was generously donated by Square One Publishers to each attendee, called Losing Paradise seemed to be color coordinated to enhance the look and feel of the room.  Wade West, the auctioneer who is in the business of making charity auctions fun, said that the Fur Ball is always the best-looking and most enjoyable event that he does.

The guests sure seemed to share his sentiment.  As one donor said, “There are events, and there are great events,” and lifting his hand up the next level to as high as he could reach, he concluded “and then there is the Big Cat Rescue Fur Ball, in a class all by itself, way up at the very top!”  He went on to say that we could count on his support every year.  We sure heard that a lot too.

We could hardly move from one side of the room to the other without being surrounded by happy party goers who wanted to say how much fun they were having, how much they love Big Cat Rescue and how they will continue to tell others about the great work and great people.  Some said it was their first experience with Big Cat Rescue and they couldn’t wait to tell their friends.  Some were returning for their sixth year and already had brought new friends to the sanctuary and to the gala event.  Some said they had come in from as far away as Maryland, Virginia and New York just to attend the Fur Ball.

Cox Radio personality Keith Conners had his work cut out for him to try and draw all of the excited partiers into the dining room for dinner.  The doors had to be opened early as guest just couldn’t wait to get the party started and an hour later, after lots of free Toasted Head & Three Blind Moose wines, the wild looking crowd, in all of their great Safari Costume Formal attire, had started to let their hair down.  Jana Broder rounded them up in a Congo line of drumming, dancing faux fur and spots, and pied piper style lead them to their seats.

The superb audio visual crew from AVSS commented that of all the events they do, they are most impressed by how engaged our supporters are and how they actually pay attention when we are speaking to them from the stage.  We have made it our policy not to waste donor funds nor time and they can see that in the new cat-centered improvements when they visit the sanctuary and when they attend the Fur Ball.  We ask for 30 minutes of their attention, to thank our King of Beast and Major Media sponsors and the rest of the night is for them to have fun.  Holy cats, do our people know how to have fun!?!

It starts with the attire and costume contests and if you get to the Fur Ball and think that you should have done something a little bolder, we’ve got it for you.  From animal print accessories to buy, to the free face painting offered by Cat Camp the whole room took on a fantasy form of half human – half cat.  A man could look like he just stepped off the pages of GQ but when he turned around you could see he was sporting a tiger tail peeking from under his jacket.  From the sophisticated to the full lion suit, along with temptress lion tamer, there was a look for every one.  Women really make the most of the event and come in every imaginable spot, stripe and accessory.  From funky to full out glam they sparkle like rare gemstones.

Shoppers also applauded the fact that there was a range of animal themed items for every budget as well.  When every dollar you spend is saving a big cat’s life, you can find something for everybody on your gift list.  From a $10.00 gift basket to a $10,000.00 trip there was something for everyone. Top cat donors included Tom Mitchell, who bid $8,000 for an African safari; Michael Jamison won the Thailand trip for $7,500; and Lance and Karyn Ringhaver paid $2,350 to drive a new Jaguar XF for one month. One $10,000 Paris trip bidder said she’s never done anything like that before, but did because it is “Fur a Good Cause” as our motto goes.

There was cake for everyone too as Cakes on the Dot, Cakes Plus and A Piece of Cake vied for the coveted King of Feasts Award.  Cakes Plus won with a cake sculpture of The Tree of Life As It Should Be, but the crowd was the real winner because this was a voter based taste test as well as a contest of form. The winner got a plaque to show off, mention on our website for a year and a week of skiing, tennis and golf at Treasure Lakes.

Taste and style prevail when Outback is in the kitchen.  The Fur Ball feast is never a rubber chicken affair.  In honor of all of our animal loving friends, birds and mammals are never on the menu.  Instead these chefs go all out to create a vegetarian meal that is a temptation to any omnivore.  The deserts are always hand crafted to compliment our theme and this year resembled a little African hut and a starry sky.  Complimentary wine flowed at the tables and complimentary Red Bull flowed at the six liquor stations.

No matter where you were in the ballroom you could see the gigantic rotating slide shows that featured our benefactors and helped tell the story of the cats at Big Cat Rescue.  People new to our mission reported again and again how important it was to them to know who they were supporting and having the cats images and stories surround them was reassurance that they were doing a good thing.  Those who have come to know and love the cats of the sanctuary wanted to be sure that no cat was left behind and eagerly sought out their favorite cats to purchase their sponsor kits.  One person, who always sponsors Bailey the bobcat at the Fur Ball commented on how helpful our staff had been in searching out the 134 faces to find his special bobcat friend…they had to, because he wasn’t leaving without Bailey’s kit!

It is that same commitment to protecting these precious creatures that drew several celebrities and politicians to the Fur Ball.  Fox 13’s Cynthia Smoot (our host MC) Russell Rhodes, Mrs. Tampa, Carrie Mobley, State Representative Kevin Ambler, and candidates Kevin Beckner and Phyllis Busansky.  A number of other celebrities couldn’t be there in person, but wanted to insure that our event was a success and sent autographed items.  Cher went all out sending a watch, and autographed blanket, photo book and lion.  Cindy Crawford, Tony Dungy, Derrick Brooks, James Wilder and Cadillac Williams all sent autographed items as well.  The last living Ace, General Ritchie, about whom the movie Top Gun was centered, offered a ride with him in a jet as part of one of our live auction items.  Our own up and coming star of Animal Planet and Discovery Channel, Scott Lope, auctioned himself off twice raising $2,800.00 for the cats as bidders competed for a private tour of the refuge with Scott.

If it wasn’t enough to own something donated by the stars, Jeff and Brigitte Ajluni donated club seats for the Bucs designed to make you feel like a celebrity yourself.  Brigitte’s spectacular costumes always make her a finalist in the costume contest and this year’s Cat Burglar was no exception.  The top winner is chosen by chance, in a draw from a deck of cards, and this year’s winner was Roger Hopper of New Port Richey who came as a Big Game Safari Photographer.  The winner got a week in the Wolf Run manor at Treasure Lakes.

This year’s event was to raise funds for the continued care of Joseph’s Pride, a group of 2 lions and 2 tigers rescued last year in Ohio.  Their story was woven into every aspect of the event, with the climax coming in Jamie Veronica’s video set to the song, Pretty Amazing Grace.  If you didn’t know anything about the day to day work of Big Cat Rescue, her 5 minute movies can change that in a way that people talk about for years.  Seeing these cats rescued from a life of horrific confinement and seeing them enjoying their new lush environments at Big Cat Rescue touches hearts and inspires us all to do everything we can to protect these great cats.  Her videos will go on to YouTube, MySpace, google, Yahoo, Verizon cell phones and many other outlets and reach hundreds of thousands more.

Vendors noted that most events empty out by 10 PM when the live auction ends but that when they come to the Fur Ball they know they will be there until midnight and will have to help us drag the last of the dancers off the floor and out the front door.  The DeLeon Band was rocking right up until midnight and as tired as all of the volunteers were we were moving to the beat as we packed up the room around the last of the patrons who were making the most of the dance floor.  It can take a week or more to figure up how successful a Fur Ball has been as we tally up credit cards and checks and get the last of our event bills paid.  It is impossible to get a close guess based upon our observations of the night, but we did note that we were able to pack everything up in a lot less time, because there was so little left at the end of the night.  The event was a success, no matter what the final numbers turn out to be.

Just the awareness generated by the six Cox Radio Stations, Fox 13, the Maddux Report and other publications is priceless exposure.  The good will fostered by American Momentum Bank, Teasdale Worldwide and Jaguar of Tampa are enough to make us tearfully grateful.  Seeing hundreds of our friends and supporters under one roof is enough to make it all worthwhile.  It was a great time for all and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Print the flier HERE

As in the past, the ball will be primarily a fun party with the brief podium time focused on details of the rescue of “Joseph’s Pride” and of “Hope”, our most recent orphaned Florida bobcat rescue. To see in video the progress of little Hope as we go from having her nurse on a cooperative lactating domestic cat to eventually teaching her to hunt to prepare for her release, visit Hope online at https://bigcatrescue.org/video/00194.htm and tune in frequently to follow her progress.

PURCHASE TICKETS: To purchase tickets 150.00

DATE & TIME: Friday, October 10, 2008 6:30PM to Midnight

LOCATION: The fabulous A La Carte Event Pavilion at 4050 Dana Shores Dr. Tampa, FL 33634 off Memorial Highway by Rocky Point Golf Course.  For detailed directions and information click here

ATTIRE: We call the unique Fur Ball attire “Safari Costume Formal”. You can come in traditional formal attire, come in safari, cat print or jungle orientation costume, or any mix in between, such as part formal with cat print accessorizing.  Be creative and have fun with it! Prizes will be awarded! Use your imagination – get wild!   For examples from the past visit bigcatrescue.org/FurBallPhotos.htm


  • LIVE AUCTION. Bid on FIVE custom created international trips outlined below, along with 30 days in the newly introduced Jaguar XF and the option to buy any Jaguar at dealer invoice from Jaguar of Tampa, 30 days in a zippy Saab convertible and similar purchase rights at Saab of Tampa, and the opportunity to actually drive a real NASCAR stock car on a real track! Details below.
  • ROLEX RAFFLE. Win TWO elegant Rolex watches donated by AvantGold Jewelers.
  • GOURMET SEATED DINNER . Dine on a Gourmet Seated Dinner by the wonderful chef at A La Carte.
  • COMPLIMENTARY WINE. Wine is provided by two great wineries, Toasted Head and 3 Blind Moose and champagne by Freixenet.
  • DRUMMING CIRCLE. Pound away your frustrations at the Drumming Circle with Jana Broder.
  • COSTUME CONTEST. Win a great prize in our Costume Contest
  • SILENT AUCTION. Bid for great prizes in our Silent Auction.
  • BIG CAT BARGAINS SALE. Save money big time at the Big Cat Bargains Sale with hundreds of discounted restaurant certificates and other items at bargain prices. To view current list click HERE
  • DANCE TO LIVE MUSIC. The lively beat and dazzling stage show of the DeLeon Band will have you rocking and swinging all night. The band has played in Europe, on Regis & Kathy Lee Live, Lifetime Television, Jack Harris Live to name a few.
  • WHEEL OF FUR-TUNE CASINO TABLE. Special wheel with our own cat faces custom created by Dan Mar Productions.
  • KING OF FEAST Dessert contest.  See the top two contestants from 2007 HERE
  • COMPLIMENTARY BOOK. Each guest receives a copy of Paul Irwin’s revealing book Losing Paradise: The Growing Threat to Our Animals, Our Environment, and Ourselves.

Image of Wine King by Will Bullas Studio, 1020 Mariposa St., #1, San Francisco CA 94107
415.861.6661, willbullasstudio@yahoo.com, www. willbullas.com.

Want to receive future details about the 2008 Fur Ball via email?  Sign up HERE

If you would like to help save the big cats by donating ad space in your publication or blog, here is a beautiful ad that you can download and display.  Click HERE


BlueCross BlueShield of Florida
Candace K. Barbara
Central Pasco Weight Management / Barbara Pacholec M.D.
Conn & French
Craig E. Rothburd, P.A.
Ehrlich Animal Hospital
Hawthorne Pond
Holly O’Brien and Greg Gruendel
Hungate Mediation Services
MicroLumen, Inc.
Nielson Company
Robson Family
Saint Pete MRI
Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse
Sol & Sandra Fleischman / Lance & Karyn Ringhaver
TBear’s Toy
212 Software




Purchase tickets to win this matching pair of elegant Rolex watches, a Men’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual Airking stainless steel watch with white Roman numeral dial, oyster bracelet, engine turned bezel and the Lady’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual stainless steel watch with an 18k white gold fluted bezel, silver Roman numeral dial and oyster bracelet.  The combained retail price is $8525.  Donated by AvantGold Jewelers.

1 ticket for only $20, best deal is 7 tickets for $100. To purchase tickets visit bigcatrescue.org/Rolex.htm


Palate tantalizing complimentary wine is provided both at the dining tables and the wine bar this year by two great wineries, Toasted Head and 3 Blind Moose.


Freixenet has generously sponsored the Champagne for the Fur Ball gala.


Dan Mar Productions generously has donated their custom made Big Cat Wheel of Fur-tune where you wager by picking the cat photo the spinning wheel will land on. Be sure to reward their generosity to the cats by calling on them for your next party.  They can do everything from a house party to a complete ballroom set up.  Dan and Mary and their professional staff have been a pleasure to work with.  AvantGoldConsider throwing an exciting Casino Night party of your own to help raise money for Big Cat Rescue and be sure to call on the experts you know who have shown their compassion for the big cats.  Win a $1,000.00 gift certificate to AvantGold if you are the grand prize winner at this Wheel of Fur-tune.



The exciting animal themed decor is donated by the A La Carte Event Pavilion.

COMPLIMENTARY BOOK: Each guest receives a copy of Paul Irwin’s revealing book Losing Paradise: The Growing Threat to Our Animals, Our Environment, and Ourselves.

Gourmet Dinner Choices:

A first course of Baby Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Mandarin Oranges, Gorgonzola and White Balsamic Vinaigrette, A La Carte Homemade Rolls to Include Crisp Lavash, a Second Course of either:

Nitter Kibbeh Poached Codd, atop an Exotic Pilaf of Couscous with a Cardimum Coconut Cream Sauce, with Honey Roasted Carrots and Fresh Lime, Garnished with Sweet Potato Strings

or a Vegetarian Option of Tabbouleh served with Honey Roasted Carrots, Fried Hummus Cakes (too good to even describe) with Fresh Cucumber Raita, and Pilaf of Couscous Garnished with Pickled Red Onion.

And for dessert “An African Huis Toe (hut)” Chocolate Tuille filled with Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, “A Soetkoekie Roof” Sweet Wine and Spiced Cookie, Whip Cream, and Toasted Coconut with Fresh Slices of Star Fruit (a popular choice in Africa).

EVENING ITINERARY (subject to adjustment)

6:30-7:15Check in. Enjoy unlimited complimentary wine by Toasted Head and 3 blind moose and champagne by Freixenet, confection tasting, bid in the silent auction, first dibs on the great values at the Big Cat Bargains sale, cash bars open
7:15Dinner is served
7:25Introduction by guest emcee Cynthia Smoot
7:35Welcome from Founder and brief awards (and we do mean brief…we are here to party!) followed by short video
8:00 – 8:30Live Auction. Trips and once in a lifetime opportunities presented by professional auctioneer Wade West
8:30Costume Contest finalists to the stage to draw for winner!
8:45-10:00Silent auction, Big Cat Bargains sale, dancing, drumming circle, complimentary wine bar, cash bar, vote for the best big cat themed dessert by tasting all
10:00Raffle drawing to see who wins the Rolex watches!
10:30Silent auction items close with winners announced!
11:00Wheel of Fur-tune raffle drawing!
10:00- 12:00Dancing to the sounds of The DeLeon Band, Big Cat Bargains sale, drumming circle until 11PM, complimentary wine bar, cash bar

Limo Service

Allstar will offer a 10% discount to anyone attending the Fur Ball for their transportation for that evening. Call 800-345-6614 and let the representative know that this is transportation for the Fur Ball.

See the Trips & PrizesSee the Auction ItemsSee last year’s comments

Big Cat Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The sanctuary provides a permanent home for unwanted, abused and neglected exotic cats.  Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Bobcats and more reside at the 45 acre Citrus Park refuge located just across the street from the Westfield Shopping Town. The Fur Ball is an annual event to raise funds for the close to 100+ cats in our care.

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