Country music star Jo Dee Messina sings a song titled "Bring on the Rain" that talks about overcoming challenges and staying positive in the face of a downpour.
While I know the lyrics address much deeper concerns, the words could not have rang more true than they did Saturday night as we faced a literal downpour, just in time for our biggest event of the year.
But, when you have a team like we do working for a cause that means so much to all of us, you don't let a little rain and mud (actually it was a lot) diminish your goal.
It can, however, slow you down a bit. We had to cancel the Twilight Walk for Animals. What was to be the luminary-lit trail was flooded long before sunset, but our registered walkers still managed to raise just over $20,000 for the animals - not too shabby.
Kim Coleman's team, "Iwannawalkadoggi" was our largest team for the third year in a row with more than 50 team members raising $2,806. Kim walked away with a mountain vacation for her recruiting and fundraising efforts.
Our $500 Visa gift card prize went to Steve Young with team "Hike a Leg for the Hounds". Steve raised $4,480 and his teammate Jenn Daspit helped the team raise $7,000 total.
The Chalk Drawing Contest was also brought to a halt, but we still had four brave kids show up to decorate the patio with beautiful, but soon-to-be washed away works of art. Jared Collister, Ashten Perez, Blair Sims and Gracey Sims all earned Amazon gift cards for their dedication.
Thankfully, all but a handful of our booth operators showed up to the party with tents and canopies in tow, ready to feed the crowd with tasty treats and brighten spirits with delicious drinks.
The prize for best food went to Kim Fry and Lisa Hintz with their Day of the Dead booth. Kim & Lisa served grave-raising worthy pork carnitas that were a huge hit with the crowd.
Best drink prize was awarded to Steve & Janet Ferguson of Sugar South Cookie Company for their Party Punch made with Southern Comfort - yummy and quite comforting.
Kevin Staniszewski and his crew with Get to it Transport won prizes for best theme and best overall booth for their Wizard of Oz themed booth. Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, the Wicked Witch, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wizard himself were all there. They even brought their own rainbow to brighten the skies after the pouring rain moved out. Two of them will get far away from Kansas with a prize vacation in Belize!
A very honorable mention to our Jr. SPCA volunteers for their "Under the Sea" themed booth which received many compliments.
All together, the event managed to raise more than $25,000 for our organization! That money will help us feed, shelter, medicate, treat and find homes for hundreds of animals that will make their way through our doors in the coming months.
We are so grateful to our staff members and volunteers for their hard work as well as to all of the fundraising walkers, sidewalk chalkers, booth operators, donors and party goers that made this event possible, successful and fun.
Thank you to Lo Down Brown for cranking out some great tunes all night, even while the rain was coming in sideways.
Much appreciation to Nickelle Smith and Micah Rumsey of NBC 26 for being our emcees for the night and helping keep the event on track.
This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors: Aiken Saddlery, Malia's, Smith-Massey-Brodie-Guynn & Mayes LLC, Cummings Insurance Agency Inc, Auto Tech Inc, Return Engagement, NBC 26, The Dog & Hound, City of Aiken Parks Recreation & Tourism, Linda's Bistro, Atlantic Broadband, and Hutson-Etherredge Companies.
Very special thanks to Aiken Public Safety Officer Alan Willing. Officer Willing works with the City of Aiken's Animal Control department, and we consider him a friend at the SPCA Albrecht Center.
Alan, along with my husband Tom (who insists he is more of a volunTOLD than a volunteer), and our parking volunteers all spent much of the night pulling stuck cars out of the muddy parking field. It was a lot more work than we asked of them and we are so very appreciative - thanks, guys!
And finally, the next time you see our Community Outreach Director, Amy Banton, offer her a high five. Amy tackled her first big event with us quite well and managed to stay somewhat sane in the process. Her desk however, has seen better days.
We hope to see you all again for Barkaritaville 2016. And if the storm clouds roll in again, bring on the rain - the dogs are thirsty anyway.
Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She previously held the role of Volunteer Coordinator and has a background in business administration. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her husband, Tom, mother, Cheryl and three adopted cats: Bastian, Eddie and Luna.