It has been some time since I have posted – I have been quite busy trying to begin some new projects and businesses for myself (soon to be shared)! However, I wanted to fill you in on my recent time at the Steve Irwin Gala in Los Angeles. What an amazing night it was filled with lots of reptiles, yummy foods, and memories of the wonderful Steve himself.
Jake and I rolled up in my new Jeep with my custom plates that read “Crikey Mate!” I was so excited to see my car at the event – I know it is silly, but it is the little things.
This year the Gala was hosted by the SLS hotel in LA. It was quite a different scene from my first Steve Irwin Gala just two years ago, but beautiful nonetheless. Jake and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend the evening in LA and enjoy a late night filled with exciting guests all congregating for the same purpose; to raise money for conservation and honor Steve’s legacy.
The funds raised from the Gala go directly towards the Wildlife Warriors organization (originally called the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation). This organization raises money to help with several conservation projects around the world like cheetah conservation in South Africa, elephant and tiger conservation in Asia, and whale research in the United States – among many others!
There were many celebrities there supporting the cause which was great to see! Among them were Derek Hough and Nolan Gould (Luke from Modern Family) as well as a young dancer named Emmersyn Florentine. I had no idea initially who this little girl was as I helped her conquer her fear of snakes (see pic below). Coincidentally, she ended up sitting at the same table as us and I later found out she has professionally danced with Derek Hough and is friends with other local celebrities. Jake even had the chance to giver her a twirl on the dance floor which I thought was hilarious.
At our table was another amazing individual who created a beautiful wildlife painting as an auction item to be bid on at the Gala. Annette Winkler and her husband drove all the way from their home in Florida with the paining in the back of their car to attend the event. Now those are some Wildlife Warriors for you!
She and her husband made the night quite enjoyable and Jake and I grew very fond of them. It is so nice to be surrounded by people who believe in and support the same causes as you. There is something refreshing and encouraging to know that you are not alone on this planet with your hopes and dreams. And even if it means simply showing up to Steve’s Gala – we were all Wildlife Warriors that night.
One of the items they auction off at the event is a trip with the Irwins on their annual Croc Researching Trip. Every year I get giddy at the thought of one day being able to bid on such an opportunity. I am always equally excited for and admittedly jealous of the bidder who wins such a prize. That would be a dream come true. The only problem is, my tears of joy (if I were to win this trip) might inhibit my ability to actually help participate in the research process!
Anyway, Jake and I ended the night by speaking for quite some time with Terri. Without me knowing, Jake had earlier in the night taken a “bathroom break” during our meal that actually turned into him sitting with Terri and discussing how “amazing I am” – as she so kindly put it. I was surprised at Jake’s tenacity and almost brought to tears by Terri’s compliments later that night as she reiterated all that Jake had told her about my love for wildlife. She commended us on our time with the Cheetah Outreach and recommended some future conservation endeavors that we might one day like to undertake. Not to mention, she was very keen of Jake and couldn’t state enough how much he really cares about me. So sweet! She also thought it was super great that I was a personal trainer and working with people from that avenue as well. I had no idea that she also loved working out and training. She even told me about how she once considered competing in fitness, but realized it might take away from her time in conservation. (Something that I can relate to and I am working towards understanding how to navigate.)
What was a bit ironic looking back, is that Jake and I ran into Terri in a hallway of the hotel hours before the event – as we were on our way to the fitness room. Literally that might not mean much to you, but metaphorically it is sort of is humorous to me. The hallway we walked down had one of the world’s leading conservationist on one side and a fitness room on the other. And here I was, in the middle – happy to see and be with both.
Anyway, Jake and I had a wonderful time and I always leave with mixed feelings. Most of them happy and encouraged, but another part almost somber and bleak.
It is hard to explain the impact that Steve and his family have had on my life. And it is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities I will ever have to get to see them each year for the Gala. But leaving such amazing people who are so well-known and appreciated in the conservation world prompts a feeling of division once more between myself and where I want to be. Conservation is such a big world. You really are never guaranteed success in the general definition of the word. And maintaining a positive mindset while balancing the other demands of a Southern California lifestyle can be depleting at times.
But… Conservation has no defined rubric and its success is not defined by material achievements. The ultimate goal, as Steve believed – is to share passion and education for the protection of wildlife with others; and the reasons why we must. If you are creative and willing enough, I have learned that you can do this from almost any field of work you may currently be in. Of course, being surrounded by wildlife daily would be a dream come true – but knowing there are such dreams to work for keeps my wheels turning. It’s just not getting frustrated in the mean time that is part of the challenge.
Overall, the night was amazing as usual and I know Jake and I are very much looking forward to next years! We continue to explore what conservation in action means to us and pray that God uses our talents and where we are at to lead us to new levels of outreach.
Here is a short slideshow of pics from the past two Galas! Enjoy and Thank you for reading.
Remember – you can make the difference.