8/23/18 Annual Celebration – What an Event!

Wow! We are still trying to recover from yesterday’s amazing event.

The Willow Bend Annual Celebration, is our opportunity to recognize and thank our partners, funders, and volunteers, and an opportunity for our members and the community to come together and support environmental education.

Our fundraising goal for our Summer Appeal, which includes a mailed out membership drive and the Annual Celebration, is $5,000. This amount allows us to plan our fall programs and invest in supplies and materials needed for the entire school year.

Vice Board President, Michele James, and her family getting their picture taken with Rakudachan.

The event started with a light drizzle, which got us worried. We were afraid no one would show up. But by 5:05 pm people were already lining up to get their picture taken and meet¬†Rakudachan, Flagstaff’s only camel! Rakudachan is 14 months old, and belongs to Board Member Eric Souders, who brought him to the event, as a special attraction. After all, you can’t get your picture taken with a baby camel everyday.

The line for Fratelli Pizza.

Fratelli Pizza set up under the ramada, and even the drizzle, which now turned into rain, didn’t keep people away from the delicious, oven fresh pizza served on site. Friends of Flagstaff’s Future provided reusable plates and cups, part of their Zero Waste Program, and we had composting stations, so no waste was generated during the event!

The kids activities, face painting, and live music was set up inside the Center, as well as tables full with beautiful and valuable donated items for the silent auction.  Auction items included massage gift certificates, art, restaurant gift cards, and antiques. We also had a raffle, which included lots of fun items, and a grand prize, a $150 value basket from the Flagstaff Community Market.







Willow Bend staff fro left to right: Moran Henn, Executive Director, Cassandra Roberts, Education Director, Melissa Eckstrom, Education and Outreach Assistant.

Eagle Scout vlunteer James Dorn, who helped establish the Monarch Butterfly Waystation and his award.

After everyone had enough to eat, socialize, bid on items, take pictures with the camel and buy raffle tickets, we all came inside for acknowledgements and thank you’s. Moran Henn, Willow Bend’s Executive Director, introduced the Center’s staff, board of directors, founding CNRCD board members and interns. We then took the time to thank all our amazing volunteers who make our work possible and help us reach our goals and achieve our mission. Each year, we then present certificates of appreciation to a selected number of volunteers who really went above and beyond! This year we acknowledged: Mike Masek, Mike Dechter, Daniel Foley, and Norm Lowe for sharing their skills, time and enthusiasm. Our MVM (Most Valuable Member) was Jack welch, and the Business Partner of the Year went to Findley Toyota. We also presented a special certificate to Fratelli Pizza for sponsoring our dinner for the second year in a row.

But Henn was not the only one with a surprise that evening. BLE (Best Life Ever) Flagstaff, a local organization dedicated to random acts of kindness and making a difference in people’s lives, had one too! They had contacted the Willow Bend staff earlier in the week, asking if they can attend the event and present a small gift for Willow Bend’s efforts. No one had suspected that the humble gift was a $10,000(!!!) check!

You can read all about BLE and their gift in the AZ Daily Sun article, covering the event.


A very surprised (and happy) Henn shared all the wonderful things Willow Bend can do with this sort of support.

Board President Ariel Leonard ended the presentations part of the evening, thanking everyone for their support, and urging them to continue their involvement with Willow Bend. With only a little time left till the end of the evening, everyone got to enjoy ice cream, finish bidding on silent auction items, and hope they win the Community Market Basket as the number were drawn.


The event was a HUGE success! Thank you to everyone who attended, donated, volunteered, and supported! We are excited to announce that we have reached and far exceeded our $5,000 goal and we are looking forward to seeing you in the classroom, on the trails, or at the Center during one of our programs or events!