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The Humane Society of Central Illinois will be hosting their 10th annual fundraising gala virtually at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

The Humane Society of Central Illinois will host its 10th annual Gala Fundraiser event at 6:30 p.m. Friday to help raise money and awareness for the Bloomington animal shelter.

While this event is typically held in person each year and raises upwards of nearly $50,000, due to COVID-19 the Humane Society has decided to transition to a virtual environment and adapt accordingly. Since this organization is fully not-for-profit, it relies heavily on donations from individuals and other organizations that share their belief in ensuring animal welfare.

“Our gala is usually the biggest fundraiser of the year for the shelter,” Elizabeth Crowe, development director for the Humane Society of Central Illinois, said. “Unfortunately, it was canceled for safety reasons in 2020, so we’ve partnered with a new online fundraising vendor offering ‘text-to-donate’ technology that can be used for bidding during the week-long, online auction.”

Bidding for the virtual sale opened on March 1 and will offer an advanced look at some of the various items being auctioned off such as fine jewelry, merchandise from various local businesses, mystery spa packages, reservations for dinner and even an all-expense paid trip to Mexico along with many others.

A one-time registration fee of $20 is required to participate in the early bidding and attend the auction at the end of the week. This fee is a direct donation to the shelter and those who registered before March 1 will also be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $50 Uber gift card.

For those wanting to make a heftier donation, participants who contribute $100 will receive a “Watch from Home Meal Kit” that includes your choice of three different entrees: a charcuterie board, bread and dessert available for pickup at the Doubletree Hotel on Friday afternoon. Registrants in this donation bracket will also be entered to win a gift basket that includes an Echo Dot smart speaker and a Tito’s Vodka gift pack along with access to early bidding and the auction itself.

In addition to the auction, the Humane Society virtual event will also have a livestream of adoptable pets at their Bloomington shelter, a virtual “selfie booth”, a cameo from a local celebrity, and entertainment provided by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Felix & Fingers offers rentable live performances across the country with their main headquarters in Chicago. The company was started in 2010 and has since entertained more than 1,500 unique events with their humorous and interactive take on the musical classic that is dueling pianos.

“We hope that by having a fun night, celebrating this amazing organization, that we'll be able to make this event a huge success, even under the extreme circumstance of this last year,” Mike Sherman, performer and vice president of sales at Felix & Fingers, said. “It'll still be our interactive, all-request show, but now people can make donations online and we'll perform their favorite songs through a live stream. We want people to forget that they are sitting at home  it should still feel like a night out.”

The Humane Society of Central Illinois looks forward to helping not only the animals cared for in its shelter, but also the Bloomington-Normal community by bringing together a week of collaborative and meaningful excitement.

“We have all sorts of fun and unique ways to engage with the auction during the week of March 1 and that night,” Crowe said. “We realize that this is a new way to attend what used to be a pretty big, in-person community fundraising event for our shelter, but we hope our supporters, as well as a new audience of participants, will join us for our first-ever, week-long, virtual auction.”

GRACE DOYLE is a Features Reporter for The Vidette. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter at @Amaaziinggracee

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