When months of work finally displays itself in one room. Or in this case, an airplane hanger…
Laugh Your Tail Off is an event that Journey Home has been hosting for years. As a recent employee, this was my first year being a part of this memorable night. I came to Journey Home with a lot of event planning and hosting experience, but I’d be lying if I said Laugh Your Tail Off wasn’t its own animal, pun intended.
For the readers who haven’t attended, a large piece of this event is the silent auction. As the Development Coordinator, calling people for donations was a large part of my Laugh Your Tail contribution. Admittedly, I was nervous. It was unnecessary though, because I was greeted with people who were not only excited to support Journey Home but extremely welcoming to me in my new role. One of my passions is collaboration and communication, so being able to spend time getting to know, and collaborate with, some of the people in our community was a real treat.
There are so many moving pieces to this event that happened long before the night of Laugh Your Tail Off. The challenge that came with keeping track of silent auction donations, communication with various businesses, and thank you letters for donations and sponsorships is only the tip of the iceberg that I can speak on. I work for incredible women who have spent years building relationships with the community and I watched them handle the execution of this event with grace, even when they were super stressed.
When the day to set up arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can tell you though that using a wrench, kicking down table legs, and hauling sand bags never once crossed my mind as a possibility.
From day one, my boss wanted zero to do with those ugly, orange, traffic cones to indicate the parking spaces at our event. We all had a good laugh about it at the office, but in reality she truly wants the absolute best for Journey Home and thinks about the little details that do make a difference. Our Community Outreach Coordinator ended up finding a volunteer who was willing to donate hay bales for parking. When the truck backed into the airplane hanger entrance, everyone just stood there unsure of what to do next. Once the tailgate was down, I hopped up and started to undo the straps holding the hay down. My boss jumped up with me and we quickly unloaded the white dually truck by handing off bales to be stacked by staff waiting below. After I jumped down, our Operations Manager said, “bet you’re happy you wore your boots,” and I definitely was. I live with goats and a mini horse and have loaded and unloaded my fair share of hay, but didn’t expect it to be something I ever did on the clock.
Everyone around me kept talking about pipe and drape and helping to put it up. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about or what I was in for. I finally just asked and was told it is exactly what it sounds like, piping and drapes – like curtains. This was one transformation that the thought of will always make me smile.
The company providing the stage arrived and we all helped to unload their truck. It’s always interesting to me to watch how other people work in these situations. I’m a get it done as quickly as possible type of person anytime labor is involved. I stuck close to our Operations Manager and tried to do things that made the task more efficient. When we were setting up the stage, I unscrewed the individual pieces and handed them back to be put in place. Little things that eat up time. It was worth it when the Operations Manager said I could work with her anytime. She’s a person I admire, and the compliment meant a lot to me.
Rolling out the tables was my least favorite part of this entire experience and anyone I work with would tell you I made that plenty known. The huge, wooden tables were heavier than expected and once tipped on their side they towered over me. I physically couldn’t move one alone, so I partnered up with a volunteer and we made pretty quick work of it. Other staff members and volunteers were also helping and even though my fingers were killing me afterward, it was neat to see how much of a difference our progress made.
As we finished setting up, the big picture started to become apparent. It’s a hard feeling to explain if you’ve never hosted a large event, because there are parts of event planning that are just not enjoyable, but yet somehow still find a way to be fun. Even during the not so glamorous parts you’re still laughing and having a good time with people who believe in the same goal, and there’s always something kind of magical about that.
The night of, staff arrived a couple hours early and the sight when I walked in took my breath away. The pipe and drapes guys did some sort of Hocus Pocus on the drapes during the night because the stage looked fantastic and nothing like the way we left it the day before. The table settings were pristine and the silent auction items were all displayed and labeled. The entrance was lined with gorgeous trees, and the restaurant that took up the back wall was accompanied with a comfy lounge set up.
Walking in and seeing months of hard work materialize is what made all of the stressful moments worth it. I took in the empty hanger on day one and questioned how it would all come together. As I stood in the doorway, before I even got dressed for the evening, I scanned all of the empty tables and smiled at the memory of moving them into place. I let myself take a moment to experience the calm and quiet before people started arriving. The realization in that moment that this night is both a visual of and a testament to the difference Journey Home makes, is a feeling that will be hard to top.
One of the highlights of my evening was a raffle ticket competition. Myself, the Community Outreach Coordinator, and our wonderful veterinarian’s husband were all responsible for selling raffle tickets. We thought we’d add a little extra excitement by making it a competition. We all counted our starting money and got to work. I will die on the hill that says I won, but the other two got the Executive Director to say I couldn’t count any of my card transactions – cash only! I about fell over from laughter when my boss told the Community Outreach Coordinator, “what’d you expect? She does all the tech. stuff.”
The night itself flowed perfectly. All of the guests seemed to have a wonderful time and there were plenty of laughs to go around. Everyone on our staff looked fabulous. It was neat to see all of the incredible people who work directly with our animals each day all dressed up and out of their element. I was really proud as I watched everyone carry out their jobs.
At Journey Home we truly do take pride in what we do. It’s apparent during the day when you see staff working hands on with the animals. It’s apparent when volunteers help out at the shelter and at events. It was apparent the evening of Laugh Your Tail Off and I’m beyond happy that I got to experience it.