Tails were wagging and wine was flowing at Guide Dogs for the Blind's 14th Annual Canine Heroes Gala and Auction on Saturday, September 24 in the Presidio in San Francisco.
Nearly 300 guests rubbed ankles with the nation's coolest canines while savoring jazz cabaret, fine dining, rare vintage wines and a frozen martini luge – all in a supper club setting. While mixing and mingling, they bid on dozens of silent auction items.
After the cocktail hour, CEO Christine Benninger welcomed guests into the main dining area, carrying an adorable yellow Lab puppy, who may one day grow up to be a guide. She spoke about Guide Dogs for the Blind's mission, compassion and life-changing services which are provided at no cost to the blind and visually impaired.
Keynote speaker Joy Thomas followed Christine Benniger on stage with Roja, her guide dog, at her side. Thomas shared her challenges and victories as a visually-impaired writer, wife and mother of two daughters, and teacher. Her independence, confidence and humor reinforced the power of the human/guide dog relationship. With Roja, she said, she feels empowered and sees the world through a new pair of eyes.
After the emotional and uplifting keynote, the bidding began and lively would be an understatement. Starting with a "heads" or "tails" elimination game for a mixed case of fine wines, the auctioneer had everyone on their feet. From there, he moved to the much-anticipated packages.
Guests bid on everything from exotic travel packages and celebrity experiences to cases of wine collectors' dream vintages. The auctioneer dubbed the winner of the Island Style Hawaiian package "the most romantic couple" when they raised their paddles. Two Puppy Palooza! Packages were also a giant hit and included puppy socializing, a photo shoot, lunch on the campus and the opportunity to name a guide dog puppy. And, in a festive game of luck, skill and timing, one bidder took home two tickets and a VIP package to the Ellen DeGeneres Show taping in Hollywood.
All proceeds from the event benefit the care and training of canine heroes. Guide Dogs for the Blind provides highly qualified guide dogs to serve the blind and visually impaired across North America, free of charge, and receives no government funding. For more information, visit guidedogs.com.
Volunteer FFA puppy raisers pose with guide dog puppies they are raising and a baby guide dog puppy.
During the cocktail hour of Guide Dogs for the Blind's Canine Heroes Auction, guests sampled wines from Boyd Bounty Vineyards, Inherit the Sheep, Ancien, Stag's Leap, Ste. Michelle, Terra Savia and Thomas LaTour while indulging in delicious bites from GDB Chef David Wilson, The Oyster Girls, McCall's Catering and Ruth's Chris Steak House.
Silent generosity! More than 50 silent auction items were donated to the 2016 Canine Heroes Auction, including rare wines, travel packages and entertainment packages.
Full house! Nearly 300 guests attended the 14th Annual Canine Heroes Auction in support of Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Guide Dogs for the Blind President and CEO Chris Benninger gets ready to address the revelers.
Paula March Romanovsky bids and wins the Brandon Crawford Package. She sits with event co-chair Christie Kirmse and her husband Andy Kirmse.
GDB graduate and guest speaker, Joy Thomas, addresses the audience. Joy is joined by her guide, Roja.