To the Rescue! Gala
by Ali Berman
Categories: Animals, Causes, Events
Tags: , , , , , , , .
Photo: Carly Otness/The HSUS

Last night at Cipriani’s in New York City, the Humane Society of the United States raised over $1 million dollars for their life saving work. This Ecorazzi girl was lucky enough to attend the black tie shindig and hear first-hand about the amazing work HSUS does every day.

The ‘To the Rescue Gala,’ named for HSUS’s programs to rescue animals from disasters, hoarders and abuse, focused on the response teams that mobilize in hard situations. Whether it’s a raid on a puppy mill, a rescue operation in a flood zone, a raid on a cock fight, or rescuing 700 cats from a hoarder, HSUS is there with caring hands, medical treatment and a commitment to finding a home for every creature.

Will Estes from the CBS show Blue Bloods was the host of the evening and walked the audience through an introduction to HSUS’s work. Next up? Matt Lauer from ‘The Today Show’ (who joked that he was up way past his bed time), introduced the first award recipient, Jill Rappaport.

Jill, who was an entertainment correspondent for ‘The Today Show’ for seventeen years, changed direction after her dog Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Her love for Jack inspired her to give up her life in dresses chatting with celebrities and devote her time to animal protection. As she said in her speech last night, “I went from the red carpet to the wee wee pad.” Now Jill does a segment for ‘The Today Show’ called ‘Bow to the Wow’ where they feature homeless animals. Matt Lauer said proudly from the stage that the segment has a 100% adoption rate. Jill was given the Voice for the Animals award for her life saving work, not just on ‘The Today Show,’ but every day when she is out there rescuing animals.

The mayor of Newark New Jersey Cory A. Booker was up next. Mayor Booker was given the Humane Public Servant award. And with good reason. Booker, a vegetarian, has made animal issues a priority in Newark. After a horrific abuse case of a dog named Patrick, Booker used his birthday to ask the public to help him raise money to build a state of the art shelter that would be dedicated to Patrick and all animals who have suffered in similar circumstances.

While the awards were given out, guests dined on cuisine prepared by Tal Ronnen and the staff at Cipriani’s. Everyone started with delicious hors d’oeuvre (like the best risotto I’ve ever had). We then moved to our tables to enjoy a salad over a chickpea frittata. Next up, a recipe you can make at home (and you should). It was Ronnen’s famous Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples. For the entree we dined on porcini mushroom tortelloni with oven dried tomatoes, artichoke, zucchini and eggplant ratatouille in a spinach cashew creme sauce and then finished up with a layered chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla custard and pistachio ice-cream.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of HSUS and Lorenzo Borghese who was on the show ‘The Bachelor’ took to the stage to raise funds for specific programs. People were given the opportunity to give large gifts to specific projects. $25,000 was raised for a puppy mill raid. Another $25,000 went to saving the lives of at least 200 cats. $30,000 was raised to equip 21 emergency responders with the tools they need to be deployed in emergencies. Another $25,000 was raised to do an equine rescue. And then, $75,000 was raised to purchase a new mid sized truck to complete the fleet of vehicles HSUS uses to rescue animals. Between that and a vacation package, HSUS brought in over $200,000 just from people raising their hands.

Between the venue, the auction items (lots of diamonds and signed sports items), the food and the dazzling dresses, one couldn’t have asked for a more elegant affair. Wayne Pacelle, a gifted orator, was as inspiring as ever. While celebrities did bring us through the night on stage, guests were also given the privilege of meeting the heroes who work for HSUS who rescue animals each day. One even brought his dog, a little guy who was rescued from a puppy mill last year.

HSUS is the largest animal protection organization in the world. While they focused last night on their rescue initiatives, their programs are far-reaching and vital to furthering the cause to protect animals. I personally love them for their work to change laws. Whether it’s making cock fighting illegal, putting stricter regulations on puppy mills or helping battery cage hens, HSUS is there. The money raised last night will help them continue their work, something for which I’m personally thankful for.

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

View all posts by Ali Berman →
  • herwin

    trying to make us jealous, huh ? it worked.;-)
    great to read about this gala and to see how compassionate people can be.

  • Sonia

    I hope they were conflict free diamonds.

  • Anne Hogan

    Ali, it was so great to meet you on Wednesday! It really was a great event – I’m still thinking about all that great food!

  • Ali Berman

    So great meeting you too, Anne! (The ice-cream was my favorite treat. Or maybe the risotto. That’s a tough call:D)

  • Bob

    HSUS is a despicable organisation.

    • judie

      How could you possibly say that. THe Humane Society is one of the most pro-active animal rights organizations in the world, saving countless animals from the cruelties of inhumane and insensitive behavior. Their staff is filled with some of the brightest and best people who, in the corporate world would be earning huge salaries – but instead they devote their talents and abilities to save Earth’s most precious heritage – our animals. Get your head on straight, Bob!

  • Sloane Quealy-Miner

    Wayne Pacelle and HSUS and the ASPCA continually betray the animals they are supposed to protect all the while raking in huge salaries and taking away donations from real rescuers and 501C3’s that do have the best interest of the animals at heart.

    Wayne Pacelle betrayed the victims of Michael Vick by lobbying to have them killed, even as he embraced their abuser, to the detriment of the animals and our cause.

    1993, Wayne Pacelle’s group, the Fund For Animals, sought legislation to round up and kill cats in California. Despite only a couple of cat rabies cases per year, and some years none, one of those bills would have empowered animal control officers to kill cats on sight in the field if they didn’t have proof of rabies.

    in 2007, Wayne Pacelle lobbied to have Michael Vick’s victims killed, falsely claiming that “Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country.” In fact, following their actual assessment, only one dog was deemed too vicious to save. He thus lied, perjuring himself as an advocate for the mass slaughter of abuse victims. But he almost succeeded in having them killed.

    in April of 2008, the town council of Randolph, Iowa announced a bounty, offering $5 to anyone who brought a cat to the pound. In most cases, those cats would be put to death. While cat lovers cried foul and tried to stop the initiative, Pacelle’s handpicked Vice-President of Companion Animals at HSUS, the man who himself killed animals as the director of a pound in Florida, defended the Randolph effort saying that HSUS doesn’t have a problem with killing stray cats.