On Friday night at the midtown Cipriani’s celebrities and animal lovers came together to support The Humane Society of the United States at their annual To the Rescue gala. With appearances by famous New Yorkers like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, as well as a wonderful performance from Colbie Caillat, the evening was as exciting as it was inspiring.
While the night focused on the organization’s rescue work, President and CEO of the HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, explained to the crowd that their rescue team would just be frustrated if they only worked to rescue animals in need. That’s why the HSUS tackles the problems from both sides. They save animals who are in danger right now (like on their regular puppy mill raids), and are the leader in getting laws passed to make it so animals won’t be put in that same situation in the future.
Throughout the night celebrities came on stage and told their personal stories, like Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter bringing her pet pig to Gracie Mansion, and then learning that it’s actually against the law to have a pig at Gracie Mansion… The hilarious Ali Wentworth shared her experience adopting two guinea pigs, Lenny and Archie, who she was told were life partners and could not be adopted separately. They lived in her children’s bathroom (which is as big as her first New York studio apartment, she joked) until they discovered that one of the life partners was actually a girl. Fast forward to now having eight guinea pigs running around the bathroom. Wentworth, who is married to George Stephanopoulos, quipped that he was going to go back to sleeping with a different model each night while she would remain at home with her now eight guinea pigs.
Needless to say, it was a very funny evening. Also, a delicious one. The food in the past has been good, but the HSUS kept it local this year and hit a home run with the cuisine. The famed upper west side restaurant Candle 79‘s recipes were cooked up by the Cipriani’s staff making the attendees ooh and ahh with each bite of their porcine crusted seitan with haricots verts amandine and roasted garlic, cauliflower purée. And then, it just got better. For dessert, the chocolate peanut butter bliss was just about the best thing you could ever put in your mouth. Sweet and salty with the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate, I could eat that every night and never get bored.
Colbie Caillat helped finish up the night, not just with her wonderful performance of some of her biggest hits (Brighter Than the Sun and Bubbly) but also by raising 30k by auctioning off the guitar she’s been playing on tour for the last few years. She also talked to the audience about her personal experience going vegetarian. She said that she had always been an animal lover but hadn’t previously made the connection between her love of animals and the animals on her plate. Thankfully, she realized that going veg was the only path for her to be truly kind to animals in words and actions.
While all of those moments were highlights, one of my best memories from the evening was choosing to use the restroom at the right time. Ricky Bobby, a rescue dog from one of the HSUS’s puppy mill raids, was with his guardian and award recipient Megan Bliss in the women’s bathroom. The little guy had only known cruelty and had to drag himself around by his front legs due to the loss of use of his back legs. Then, he was saved and a little wheelchair was made for him by Bliss so he could run around and play with the best of them.
From the exciting auction to the donations from individuals and gala supporters, Wayne Pacelle announced at the end of the night that he believed they raised over 1.6 million dollars for their life saving work. We know that money is going to be put to good use to continue to save animals both by their work on the ground (like where their international rescue team is in the Philippines right now) and in D.C. where they continue to make new laws that protect animals. It was an honor to be there surrounded by so much love for animals, and with the people who are truly changing the game.