Stray cats and dogs of Kootenai County need more than the passion of dedicated volunteers – they need donors willing to pay top dollar for tickets to the most spectacular garden party of the year.
A sell-out crowd of 600 animal lovers paid $125 per person Tuesday to spend the evening eating duck-stuffed spring rolls, sipping champagne and wandering the lavish flower gardens that cover acres surrounding businessman Duane Hagadone’s Casco Bay home.
Hagadone, the owner of The Coeur d’Alene Resort, opens his summer home once a year for one nonprofit fundraiser. This year the Kootenai Humane Society is the charity of choice, hoping to raise $150,000 for operating expenses at the facility that served more than 1,500 animals last year.
Hagadone pays for everything, from the hors d’oeuvres and wine to the printing, postage and transportation on the cruise boat Spirit of the Coeur d’Alene, ensuring that the charity gets every cent. The money comes from ticket sales, raffle tickets and the live auction where the least expensive item – a one-person rafting trip down the whitewater of the Clark Fork River – sold for $1,200.
Likely the most expensive item on the waterfront auction block was a ride on Hagadone’s private helicopter for four guests. Before the bidding started, the metallic blue helicopter buzzed the crowd, hovered and then gently landed on a pad on the water in front of the historic log home and gardens.
Earlier in the evening, the master of ceremonies privately suggested that the nighttime flight might sell for $8,000.
This isn’t the first fancy fundraiser for the Humane Society. In 2005, Ron Nichols and Cheryl Shields opened their 16,000-square-foot Tuscan-style villa for a similar soiree.
“I’m dumbfounded by the generosity in a community of this size,” Nichols said Tuesday. There are only about three or four high-end fundraisers each year in Kootenai County, including Kootenai Medical Center’s Festival of Trees, but they are all well attended, he said.
“It’s so disproportionate to the incomes and ability here,” Nichols said.
President Andy Smith said the goal of the Kootenai Humane Society is to become a leader in animal education in North Idaho. And the message is that euthanasia isn’t the answer to the pet overpopulation problem. Instead, Smith said, the Humane Society needs money for community education for residents, law enforcement, veterinarians and everyone else about the importance of spaying and neutering.
To him, that means having a balanced board with not only passionate volunteers but also people with business backgrounds who can raise money and spend it wisely.
The shelter aspires to relocate from its cramped building next to the Coeur d’Alene Airport to a new modern facility that can help the society care for animals for the next 50 years, said Executive Director Phil Morgan.
“I’m very impressed with the support in the community,” he said. “There are 600 people here for the Humane Society.”
The money was flowing Tuesday as people paid $100 per glass of champagne, each flute with a cubic zirconia in the bottom and the hope of winning a real diamond. There was a typical mish-mash of North Idaho folks dressed in “cocktail attire” that included everything from ball gowns and summer dresses to Hawaiian shirts and suits.
Hagadone greeted each passenger as they disembarked the cruise boat, welcoming them to Casco Bay.
“We do everything,” Hagadone said in between chatting with guests with his wife, Lola. “We pay for it all. I’m proud of that.”
As host, Hagadone was the only person allowed to have a pet at this animal event. His 7-year-old German shepherd, Sky, followed Hagadone as he mingled.
Like when Jeff Hoerner, a Post Falls landscape contractor, broke into the conversation to question Hagadone about the garden. Before Hagadone could answer, Hoerner gushed over the perfect colors, texture and blooming patterns.
Hagadone smiled and said he’s been working at it for 10 years.
Afterward, Hoerner admitted he doesn’t normally attend such big-ticket events but couldn’t give up a chance to see the famed flower beds.
“I just came to check out the gardens and help the animals,” Hoerner said.