An armadillo upstaged celebrities on the “green” carpet. Raptors flew overhead during dinner. An alligator relaxed on stage, stretched across the laps of hosts Jack Hanna and Annabelle Gurwitch. And a grey wolf and mountain lion greeted guests during dessert.
I am lucky enough to have recently started my dream job, California Director for the National Wildlife Federation, and one of the many perks of my role is attending a cocktail reception with Gila monsters and baby possums. And of course working with some of my environmental heroes is another highlight. Last week I got to do both at NWF’s Voices for Wildlife gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The event celebrated the organization’s 75th anniversary by recognizing individuals who have displayed a commitment to protecting our natural world.
The evening had so many high points, I am still recovering from an excitement hangover. Jack Hanna, who I watched avidly growing up when he made appearances on television with his animal friends, delighted and inspired the audience with his enthusiasm and love for wild creatures. NWF surprised Jack with a wildlife hero award, given to him onstage by another of my childhood favorites Chevy Chase (my dad and I watched the movie Foul Play every time it was on channel 56). Chevy and his wife Jayni are committed environmentalists and served on the program committee for the event.
Another honoree, Lawrence Bender, is an environmental and artistic hero of mine. Aside from producing all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies (Inglourious Basterds was just genius), he also produced An Inconvenient Truth and helped create curriculum and a website to empower youth to become conservation activists. Howard Ruby’s beautiful photographs of polar bears decorated the event and also stood as a powerful testament to the importance of NWF’s mission of protecting wildlife. Howard's work with Climate Classrooms and Eco-Schools with NWF is invaluable. Anderson Cooper, who accepted his award via video feed, was honored for his coverage of the BP oil spill. Alyssa Milano was also recognized for her social media campaign that assisted NWF’s efforts to help wildlife impacted by the spill.
The wonderful event was made possible by a visionary and remarkable woman, Alanna Tarkington, through support from the Grace C. Harrison Trust. Proceeds benefit NWF’s work in California. Follow our efforts in the Golden State on Facebook and Twitter.