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Spring Fling Gala co-chairs Erin Combs Pearl and Jamie Carr welcome guests to the June 8 event at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. Courtesy photo
Community Rancho Santa Fe

Spring Fling Gala raises about $500,000 for Helen Woodward Animal Center

Above: Spring Fling Gala co-chairs Erin Combs Pearl and Jamie Carr welcome guests to the June 8 event at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. Courtesy photo


RANCHO SANTA FE — The 31st annual Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Spring Fling Gala was a night to remember raising approximately $500,000. Four hundred guests gathered at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club on June 8 to experience the gala’s theme “Our Extravagant World Tour.”

The annual Spring Fling is the center’s biggest fundraiser of the year.   

As guests flowed in, Pet Encounter Therapy animal “greeters” and adoptable puppy aviators were on hand to welcome them.

Emcees for the evening were KUSI Channel 9 News meteorologist Mark Mathis and ABC Channel 10 News meteorologist Megan Parry.

According to Jessica Gercke, Helen Woodward Animal Center PR director, the gala was a way to celebrate with supporters, friends, and donors while giving guests an inside look into the work the center does every day.

“Our theme was really special this year because the ‘World Tour’ paid tribute to all the countries where HWAC’s programs are making an impact — over 256 countries participate in our programs,” she said.

Throughout the evening, the center featured “Fund a Program” opportunities, Gercke said, which included videos that showed guests the organization’s life-saving programs.

“This year, we featured our Adoptions Transfer Program where we bring orphan pets from overburdened shelters to forever homes from a number of states and our Pets Without Walls Program which helps the pets of the homeless,” she said. “We also featured our Humane Education Program which serves approximately 11,000 kids of all ages, including those in underserved areas to teach them love and compassion for all the creatures we share the world with.”

Gercke also pointed out how the gala landed on an extraordinary year — the 20th anniversary of Helen Woodward’s president and CEO, Mike Arms.

“We had a nice tribute video showing the great work Mike has done around the world, which included lovely messages from friends like Jackson Galaxy, the Woodward Family, and many more,” she said.

Like every year, the gourmet food was abundant. Gercke said 20 top restaurants in San Diego volunteered their time, talent, and ingredients to prepare tapa-style dishes. A handful of these restaurants included Donovan’s Steak & Chop House, Café Secret, Pacifica Del Mar, The Fish Market, Sugar and Scribe and Bluewater Grill.

Must-have auction items raised a wave of paddles for experiences such as a Maui vacation, an Indian Wells Masters Tennis Getaway, Seattle spa and shopping vacation, McLaren Driving Experience in Palm Springs, and more.

The title sponsor was EDCO Disposal.

Gercke said the center was grateful to its 2019 Spring Fling Gala Committee, headed by a longtime center friend and supporter Jaime Carr, who recruited animal-lover Erin Combs Pearl to co-chair the event.

Gercke also gave special thanks to Committee Restaurant Chair Ann Dizney.

While the evening was enjoyable at every turn, it also raised awareness.

“The event is really special because it gives everyone a chance to get glamorous but keeps the focus on the animals and the work we’re doing in animal welfare. You can’t take a step around the gala without running into an adoptable puppy or one of our Pet Encounter Therapy pets,” Gercke said. “The announcements all night reminded gala guests that they are supporting truly life-saving programs, and the event is joyful because it is a truly fun evening, and everyone goes home knowing they are saving lives.”