It’s that time of year where I get easily distracted, stressed and anxious. It’s time for our open house. In just a few days we will have a few hundred people at our home. This isn't like some big party; most of these people are total strangers. It is not a normal concept to open one’s property to pretty much anyone. Our first Adventure Day was in 2009. We had been an official organization for two years by then. In some ways it seems like it was a natural progression to start letting people in and in other ways it was not an easy decision. There have always been a large number of animals that we can’t take out to programs and of course people were always curious about those. More and more often people were asking to come out to see all the animals. Of course that wasn't a problem when it was friends and family but when you start to get complete strangers requesting to come it’s another issue. We decided that something had to be done to let people come visit. Then the hard part began. How do we let people come to our home to see the animals yet still have retained our privacy? We got together with our volunteers and friends and started planning and brainstorming. Rule number 1, no one but volunteers are allowed into the house. Rule number 2 was that we never publish our exact address. This may have limited us over the years for the numbers of people that have come out but it’s the risk I’m willing to take.
I wouldn't say that the first one was a giant financial success but the people that came had a great time. To me, that was the best measure of success and it was enough to take what we had learned to do more. I remember the morning of the event. It felt like such chaos. No one had done this before and it seemed like everything was running behind schedule. We managed to get it together though and no one probably noticed the “imperfections”. As somewhat of a control freak I had to learn to let go of the little things. I would walk around and think that a sign wasn't quite where I would put it, that something was laid out in a random order or that games were played completely differently from how I created them. It was actually a bit of struggle to get myself to the point of not worrying about these little things.
We are now at 12 events later and I still feel like I’m learning better ways to do things. I think that’s a good thing; we always want to be improving it and giving people new reasons to come out. I would say that the most important things to me to have a successful event and one that’s as little stress as possible is 1) to be very organized, 2) to have great people behind me that know exactly how these things go and 3) to trust the people that are working so hard to help. I've been fortunate to have so many people over the years that fit this picture. There is no doubt that this day exhausts every volunteer we have. I am always humbled by the number of people that are willing to come out and work so hard for us.
As much as I sit here and talk about the stress and the amount of work; I must admit, I actually enjoy doing these events. When I stop and take a moment to look around I see kids having fun with the games, a line of people at the food, the deck full of people anxiously trying to get to touch the animals and many others checking out the animals or just hanging out having a good time, I fill with pride. This is something that Nigel and I have worked so hard to create and so many people are here to support us and our animals. Then I quickly snap back to reality because someone needs to know where something is or what to do about something else.