It’s time to mark those calenders for one of the island’s biggest events of the year.
The Friends of V.I. National Park’s 7th Annual Gala is on Saturday, February 5, at Cheryl and David McDaniel’s stunning “Butterfly Beach” home right on the water in Fish Bay starting at 6 p.m.
“This is our signature social event of the year,” said Friends’ development director Heather Ruhsam. “We’re very proud this year to have DIAGEO USVI as our sponsor.”
The night will feature dancing under the stars to live music on the McDaniel’s waterfront lawn, mouth-watering fare by Mathayom and plenty of opportunities to win exciting prizes.
Raffle packages include a ladies’ day with lunch at the Lime Inn and gift certificates to some of Love City’s most popular shops. A men’s day package consists of a sport fishing charter on World Class Anglers and a few rounds of beers at a local watering hole.
“We’re trying to think outside the box a little bit this year as far as the raffle prizes go,” said Ruhsam. “But we also kept some raffle prizes that were popular in the past.”
Those always popular raffle prizes include a custom wood cutting board from Gerry Hills, blown glass from Maho Bay Glassworks, a keg party furnished by St. John Brewers and tickets to the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s performance at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
Raffle tickets, $25 each or five for $100, are available through Friends of VINP Store, both Connections locations, the Friends’ office in Mongoose Junction and will also sold the night of the soiree as well.
Party-goers can even choose which raffle packages to try for by placing their tickets in a basket in front of the prize they want to win. For people who aren’t attending the gala, they just have to tell one of the Friends’ staff which prize they want and it will be placed in that basket, explained Ruhsam.
“We did the raffle that way last year and people really enjoyed being able to choose what they try to win,” she said. “You can put your tickets into a few different baskets or, to increase your chance of winning one package, put them all in one basket. Or just tell us what prizes you want and we’ll do it for you.”
There will be several silent auction items available to bid on at the gala as well, including an original oil painting by Elaine Estern. Ruhsam is also still accepting donations of items or services for the raffle packages, she added.
As Friends supporters don their island elegant attire for a night under the stars, there could be no better venue than the McDaniel’s Fish Bay home, explained Ruhsam.
“The way the house is situated, it’s almost a small representation of the VINP with mangroves and grassy areas and it’s right on the water,” said the Friends’ development director. “The McDaniels are also interested in bringing back the butterfly population in Fish Bay and the surrounding area by reintroducing native plants on their property.”
As one of the three major fundraisers for Friends of VINP, the gala goes a long way toward ensuring that the group’s many programs and projects continue throughout the year.
From Friends’ summer eco-camps and ranger in training programs to the group’s lionfish response program and cultural events at Cinnamon Bay amphitheater, gala-goers will be truly doing good while having a blast.
“This is one of our major fundraisers, besides the online auction and the Beach to Beach Power Swim,” said Ruhsam. “The funds we raise go to support all of the different programs we host and our efforts on behalf of V.I. National Park.”
The event is also an opportunity for Friends to thank the people who support the organization, Ruhsam added.
“More than anything, the gala is a chance for us to publicly thank our donors and our members,” she said. “A lot of our members come to the event and it’s a great opportunity for us to say ‘Thank you’ face to face. We also use the night to celebrate our accomplishments and honor our relationship with the National Park Service.”
Last year’s gala raised $20,000 for Friends of VINP and this year Ruhsam hopes to top that by $5,000, she explained.
Shuttle service to the McDaniel’s home will be provided from the Westin Resort and Villas vacation villas area as well as from the Cruz Bay dock after the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. ferries. The night kicks off with cocktails at 6 p.m. on the McDaniel’s lawn and Friends staff request RSVPs by January 30.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the gala call Ruhsam at Friends at 779-4940.