Nearly 200 patrons once again hooted and howled the night away at Harford County’s wildest annual party — a “Night With the Wild,” a charity event to benefit the nonprofit Susquehannock Wildlife Society (SWS).
The event, held on March 2 at Deer Creek Overlook, was the fourth held by the Harford County-based nonprofit conservation/education/rescue/research organization, and was aimed at raising awareness and funding for the creation of the region’s first wildlife center, which will be dedicated to habitat restoration, education and research.
Highlights from the evening included awarding the 2019 Ultimate Ambassador for Wildlife trophy — a first time tie — to Ecotone, Inc. and Main St Design, LLC for their fundraising and advocacy efforts; a spirited auction of donated items including local art, outdoor gear, donations from local businesses, and a meet-and-greet with some truly wild feathered and scaled special guests.
Patrons enjoyed an evening of great food provided by Pairings Catering, a specialty drink (“Copperhead Venom” — lime juice, ginger beer and signature vodka), local beer and wine, cupcake dessert, a coffee blend created for the event called the “Spring Peeper” by Brewing Good Coffee Co., wild music, and breathtaking natural décor, all while learning about the vision for the Susquehannock Wildlife Center through various displays and passionate speeches.
In an adjacent room, away from the dancing, auctions, and merriment, volunteers from SWS introduced patrons to the real stars of the evening — an American kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Wood Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Green Treefrog, Spotted Turtle, Eastern Milksnake, Eastern Ratsnake, and Eastern Kingsnake. Each of these critters had been born in captivity, injured, orphaned, or otherwise deemed unsuitable for release back into the wild. Instead, these animals were given a second chance in a new and more domesticated role as educational ambassadors – teaching the public about their species, habitat, and the environmental concerns that threaten them.
This year also ended with the first ever tie for the SWS Ultimate Ambassador for Wildlife award, which is presented to the top donor of the evening that advocates for the mission of SWS. Ecotone, Inc. and Main St. Design, LLC, are both local businesses who earned this award by showing their support for local wildlife, including their sponsorship of the event. Each will receive a handmade plaque featuring the new SWS turtle design barn quilt.
Andrew Adams, President of the SWS Board of Directors, noted that, “The Night With the Wild’ would not have been possible without our dedicated volunteers, silent auction donors, support from the community, and the support of our sponsors”, which included Harford County Government, Ecotone, Inc., Emory Knoll Farm (Green Roof Plants), Lassen Marine Webster, Inc., Kollar Nursery, Merritt Companies, Main St Design, LLC, MRA PMI, Stem Graphics Print Shop, Bel Air Liquors, River Breeze Services, Vince Marino Plumbing & Heating, Fiore Winery & Distillery, Checkerspot Brewing Company, Friendly Entertainment, Brewing Good Coffee Company, Flavor Cupcakery, and Pairings Catering. Their support, along with everyone attending the fundraiser, was noted for making development of a dedicated wildlife center possible.
As a chorus of frogs, owls, and other nocturnal species played in the background, SWS Executive Director Scott McDaniel presented a new original video showcasing accomplishments, a close up look at the Wildlife Center in its present state, as well as a vision for its future. He then made an appeal to the sold out room of guests for financial support to help the organization “cross the finish line” to complete renovations for the Wildlife Center this year. McDaniel spoke of the growth of the organization during its almost eight years of existence and thanked Harford County Government for the Tourism Grant it awarded the organization, which helped fund its operations again during the past year so that money raised could be directed towards the capital renovations of the Wildlife Center.
Recently retired Maryland Natural Resource Police Corporal Michael Lathroum won the SWS Conservation Partner of the Year award based on his service of not only enforcing wildlife regulations that protect local wildlife and bringing justice to those who harm it, but also for participating in numerous rescues of injured or at risk wildlife during his career. Volunteer Trailmaster Eric Kimmel won the SWS Volunteer of the Year award based on his increasingly active role maintaining the Wildlife Center property and working hard to help complete renovations so the facility may open in the near future. While one volunteer is highlighted each year, all of SWS volunteers are owed a debt of gratitude for donating their time, talents, and energy into the organization.
Proceeds from the event will assist in funding the costs of renovating and constructing the wildlife center — creating a place where visitors will be educated and entertained by museum-quality displays, hands-on activities, and live-animal education ambassadors. Having a permanent facility will also allow Susquehannock Wildlife Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to expand its already active and successful wildlife rescue, education, and research efforts. The facility, currently under renovation, is located on the 20-acre Hopkins Branch Wildlife Management Area property in Darlington.