This New Expansion Features All-Suite Accommodations Along With the Finest Adult-Only Amenities
Viejas Casino & Resort opened its new luxury tower, Willows Hotel & Spa, January 31, 2018, as the third phase of its latest development plans with a ribbon cutting ceremony, an exclusive VIP party, and a mesmerizing fireworks show. By maintaining the artistic theme of nature, the new tower embraces a relaxing atmosphere by customizing the guest’s stay. The 159 all-suite, adult-only tower features a lush new saltwater pool, an extravagant full-service spa, salon, and fitness center, plus three new restaurant concepts. The San Diego area’s premier gaming destination has been redefined to accommodate guests with an unparalleled experience.
Welcoming an invitation-only guest list to the grand opening celebration for Willows Hotel & Spa, General Manager Todd Simons praised the lush adults-only tower as “the first in this market” and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, who now employs a growing team of 2,100.
In a speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Viejas Tribal Chairman Robert J. Welch, Jr. said, “We are proud to give back to our community in so many ways. We will continue to work tirelessly to be authentic and unwavering.”
Upon arrival to Willows Hotel & Spa, guests are greeted with a personalized check in experience that is tailored to their uniqueaccommodations and describes the array of luxurious built-in amenities therein. Each suite features an ultra-modern contemporary design and has the functionality of a smart room, which can find information, act as an alarm, play music, and more. A pillow preference program allows guests to choose from a selection of plush bedding options to ensure a restful night’s slumber and select rooms feature a Wellness Experienceincluding items such as Vitamin C-infused showers which add to the guests’ ability to reinvigorate. Each suite features products from Whish Beauty, whose trendsetting bath and beauty products are naturally sourced, organic, and made in the USA.
Those wishing to relax poolside can enjoy the all-new saltwater pool with amenities designed to nourish the mind and body. From outdoor meditation to poolside massage treatments, the adults-only pool is complimented by a brand-new spa, which offers full salon and spa services, ideal for anyone who seeks to be pampered, while a 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center allows guests to maintain their exercise regimens uninterrupted during their stay. Spa highlights include a salt sauna, private spa pool, steam room, and outdoor cabanas where treatments can be provided. This offers the perfect balance across the AAA 4 Diamond, Forbes Travel Guide 4 Star rated property and compliments Viejas’ other family-friendly and high-energy pool environments.
To satiate the refined tastes of the hotel’s visitors, three new restaurant concepts feature fresh, gourmet international food offerings. Locale Kitchen and Lounge, the signature eatery with farm-to-table California inspired cuisine, serves lunch and dinner in the sophisticated atmosphere.GingerNoodle Bar offers up classic and contemporary Asian fare in a comfortable and modern setting, while The Daily Roast features popular Starbucks products and serve the grab-and-go needs of guests 24 hours a day.
Viejas Casino & Resort is at the heart of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians’ entrepreneurial achievements and is recognized as one of the most respected and successful Indian gaming resorts in California. Since its beginnings as the Viejas Bingo Room in 1977 the property has undergone several expansions, constantly striving to provide guests more amenities, better services and more reasons to visit.
About Viejas Casino & Resort
Located at I-8 and Willows Road east of San Diego, the Forbes Travel Guide 4 Star and AAA Four Diamond Viejas Casino & Resort features world-class gaming with thousands of slot machines, exciting table games that include Blackjack, Baccarat, and Pai Gow, a modern and elegant bingo room, and an off-track betting facility. Viejas Casino & Resort also features a variety of restaurants including the AAA Four Diamond Grove Steakhouse, The Buffet, and The Café. The beautiful Viejas Outlets, located across the street from the casino, offers visitors a unique shopping experience with highly acclaimed stores, numerous eateries, Viejas Bowl, and during winter Southern California’s largest outdoor ice rink. Viejas Hotel features 203 luxury rooms and 34 VIP suites, including a lush, spacious pool and lounge area. The highly anticipated new tower, Willows Hotel & Spa is now open and offers an additional 159 VIP suites, luxury spa facilities, signature restaurants including Locale Kitchen & Lounge, Ginger Noodle Bar and The Daily Roast plus an expanded gaming space.
When I moved to San Diego back in 2014, I had NO idea this city was so incredible. (I know..my favorite word. *rolling eyes*) But, seriously. San Diego is freaking amazing and every day I learn something new! I remember googling “things to do in San Diego” before visiting the first time, only to find Sea World, Legoland, and the Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove. Nothing else, and I thought, “Hmmm, kind of boring.” HA! I had no idea the restaurant culture was so intense, and the adventures can pile on in layers. There is something exciting to do in every single neighborhood in this fine city, and I am SO blessed to have captured so much of it over the past few years! From hiking to golfing to horses and parties (like Opening Day in Del Mar), there is SO much fun to be had here, and I have been having so much fun not even realizing how much content I’ve created. There are now over 275 stories posted here on thesdlifestyle.com all about San Diego!! And this year, the blog has made it to FeedSpot’s list of Top 50 San Diego Blogs and Websites on the Web! I feel so honored and I cannot thank each and every one of you reading right now for mentioning the next best place to try out for lunch, or asking questions that lead me to more discoveries in search of answers! I can’t wait to see what this next four years, and more, has in store!!
The blogs listed are the Best San Diego blogs from thousands of top San Diego blogs in our index using search and social metrics. This is the most comprehensive list of best San Diego blogs on the internet. These blogs are ranked based on following criteria:
Google reputation and Google search ranking
Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
Quality and consistency of posts.
Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
Again, I thank all of our readers for checking out our blog and commenting! It really adds to the community! See you around San Diego!
I recently had the opportunity to video chat with Lauryn, creator of The Skinny Confidential (TheSkinnyConfidential.com) about her brand, style and life here in San Diego. I learned so much about business, not letting others get to you, and I even learned a bit about Michael, Lauryn’s husband! Watch the full video interview to learn about Lauryn’s entrepreneurial business and blog turned podcast turned fitness e-book (and much more!!):
Here are the 5 biggest pieces of advice I took away from my video chat with Lauryn on how to “win” at life in the upcoming year:
1. Beat to the tune of your own drum.
Lauryn just IS herself. Totally. She never apologizes for it, and no woman should have to. She inspires you to be honest with yourself and live your life for fulfillment. She says, “I never felt that it was where I was supposed to be, even in high school. I remember looking back at high school and feeling that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. That’s weird for a high schooler to say, but that’s how I felt. I started to realize that the reason I was feeling unfulfilled was because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do or beat to the tune of my own drum. I was doing what other people told me that I was supposed to do. The second that clicked for me is the second that I rebelled and pushed back. I said, ‘Wait a minute. I need to reevaluate what I’m doing. I need to figure out a way where I can work for myself for the rest of my life and do things the way I want to do it.’ That’s where the Skinny Confidential came about.”
2. Don’t ask yourself how you will monetize your blog or website. Just focus on your passion, and then rinse and repeat.
Lauryn didn’t start The Skinny Confidential to monetize the platform. She started with a passion for connecting with other women. She says, “Looking back, that’s everyone’s concern. How do you monetize? That’s such a mistake. Everyone leads with that. I don’t feel that I’ve led with that. I think money comes when you lead with bringing value and community. I don’t think asking yourself, ‘How am I going to monetize?’ is the first question that I would ask. Lead with value. That’s how it started for me and The Skinny Confidential. It launched in 2010. I think I got 300 hits the day that I launched, which is nothing. I just kept doing it every single day for seven years, seven days a week. Rinse and repeat.”
3. Share your intentions with the world, and then, stay true to them.
Lauryn has always had pure intentions of helping others. She doesn’t just promote any random company and product that throws money at her. She’s very careful to be transparent with her audience. She says, “My intentions of building a community and providing value have always been the right intentions. I never want to pull a fast one on them. I’m not just looking to push product in their faces. If anything, I show what I really like. I say, ‘Leave what you don’t like, take what you do.’ I’m always doing give aways. A lot of bloggers will take the product that they get and display it in their room. I want to give it all back. I want to give back to the people who support me.
4. Find a way to keep in touch with others, and give back.
Lauryn is always looking for ways to give back to her audience. She says, “I’m doing this thing right now where I follow a lot of the people who have been following me on Instagram. The intent is that I’m wondering who some of these people are that I haven’t met in person. A big part of my brand is doing meetups, interfacing with these girls and talking to them, hearing about what they’re doing. I wanted to build something that was way bigger than Lauryn Evarts. The Skinny Confidential is so much bigger than me. With that intent, it comes off like that. I do want to inspire women to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and not have to apologize.
5. Don’t be nervous to live YOUR life.
Lauryn is a huge believer in living life your own way. She travels a ton, and loves her busy life just like that. She’s realized you can’t hold back, and you can’t live for anyone but yourself. She says, “You wouldn’t believe how many people are nervous to do something because of their boyfriend, their family or what their mom will think. You can’t live your life like that. You have to live for yourself. Everyone’s different. I think that, nowadays, what’s cool is not to be someone else. It’s to be the best version of yourself. That’s changed. We used to look at celebrities and think, ‘I want to be like that.’ Now, in 2017 and going into 2018, the conversation will be, ‘How can I be the best version of myself instead of wanting to be someone else?’”
The first few minutes of my video chat with Lauryn taught me a lot about being grateful and having a positive attitude, and the rest of the video chat was filled with fun, valuable information, sprinkled with some GREAT recommendations of local San Diego favorite places from Lauryn. Is there something you’re dying to ask her? You can comment below, and we’ll be sure to video chat with her again soon to get your questions answered!
Almost every day, I drive by a construction site for a new development called One Paseo on the corner of Del Mar Heights Rd. And El Camino Real. It looks like it will be pretty amazing, and instantly my mind starts to wander with questions. A few weeks ago, I was so curious, that I reached out to Paul Komadina from CBRE and he invited me down to the brand new CBRE office in UTC to talk about their new office, and introduce me to Carrie Bobb who he explained would answer all of my questions. Check out my video interview with Paul and Carrie, and see for yourself how One Paseo will change the San Diego community:
Amanda: Hey everyone. It’s Amanda with the San Diego Lifestyle. I’m here in Carmel Valley, right across from the new project, One Paseo. I was intrigued. I had to find out more information. I searched and found some incredible people to interview.
It led me to UTC to talk with Paul Komadina. He led me through one of his amazing corporate offices. He talked with me about the project. He also introduced me to Carrie. You’ll find out more about her. They both had a lot to say about the One Paseo project. First, I want you to know all about this amazing new office that they have in UTC. Let’s talk to Paul and hear all about the new UTC CBRE office.
I have Paul Komadina here with me. Tell me a little bit about who you are and where we are.
Paul: I’m Paul Komadina. I’m Managing Director for CBRE San Diego. We’re a global commercial real estate advisory firm based in Los Angeles. We have a significant presence all around the world with 400 offices. We have three offices here in San Diego. We’re sitting in our largest office here at Westfield UTC. We serve two main clients. We serve owners of real estate across all product types. We also serve tenants who occupy real estate with small, medium and large companies, and everything in between.
Amanda: You just moved in here about six weeks ago.
Paul: Yes. We’ve been in San Diego for many years. We were across the street at The Plaza for the last 32 years. We made the transition here to Westfield about six weeks ago after a three-year planning development and construction process. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been an amazing six weeks.
Amanda: Tell me some things about this office. I took a mini tour. Tell me some of the amazing features.
Paul: There are a lot of things that people have been excited about. First, we’re located in the premier shopping destination in Southern California in UTC. We have 1.3 million square feet of amenities right outside our backdoor, including a new flagship Nordstrom, and many other world-class retailers. Access to amenities, shopping and restaurants is number one. Second, a focus on hospitality is critical for us. It starts with the arrival to the office. We utilize a fully appointed valet out front.
Amanda: That experience was wonderful.
Paul: Our employees and guests utilize the valet. It’s all about welcoming people. Walking into the space, we have two full-time concierge that are here to manage the employee and guest experience. They make sure that you everything you need to be successful throughout your day. We’re sitting in the heart of our roughly 4,000 square foot lobby with 17-foot ceilings and 12-foot glass.
Amanda: It’s so open and bright with natural light.
Paul: We host a lot of events for employees and clients. We built a large lobby so that we can host all of those events here and bring people together. It’s not only for ourselves, but also to bring the community into our home. We have a number of events on the calendar over the next 90 days.
The community will be using our space to entertain. For us, it’s a great opportunity to become one with the community. Technology has been a huge element. We have a nine-screen media wall behind us where we can recognize employees and run Final Four games. We have four places in the office where we can open 12-foot high glass, 15 feet wide into the outdoors. We can bring the outdoors in. It’s been a game changer for people.
Amanda: Being able to get air in the building instead of just looking at it from inside makes a difference.
Paul: San Diego is such a wonderful place to be with an incredible climate. To not be able to be part of it throughout the work day is a lost opportunity. It’s a great chance for us to bring it in.
Amanda: It’s amazing that you saw and understood that coming into this building. How long did it take to build?
Paul: From the start of construction to move in, it was just shy of six months. From the initial idea to moving in was about a three-year process. A significant portion of that was going from a traditional office environment to an environment where not one single person, regardless of tenure or title, has an assigned workspace.
Getting people ready to live in a paperless environment where they’re living out of a backpack and don’t have personal space is a big change from what they’re used to. A lot of the three years was spent getting them prepared for this new environment. It’s been really rewarding. It’s a process that brought us to where we are today.
Amanda: It’s crucial because that’s where the world is going now. It’s paperless. I also noticed the desks where you can sit down or stand up, and change it with the push of a button. That is amazing.
Paul: There is a push within our company, and the world, to focus on wellness. We had a health and wellness committee that helped drive a lot of the things that are part of this office. Electronic sit/stand desks are really important. I can think of a handful of people in the office that, in the six weeks that we’ve been here, have not sat down one second. By and large, people are standing 30% to 50% of the time. That’s been a huge element that people are enjoying.
Amanda: I’m surprised by that. I like to sit down when I work.
Paul: Having the flexibility is the key.
Amanda: I take a break, get up and walk around. I’m sure it helps you focus and stay on track more. You’re able to get up and move, and still stay on task.
Paul: Our whole thesis is, how do we design a workplace that fits the way people work today and makes them more efficient, better at what they do and have more fun with what they do? People are able to sit, stand or move around the office. They can be mobile and work in the heart of the office, from a coffee shop, work station or private office. You need to have the flexibility to do it. That was the driving force behind the move.
Amanda: I was a little bit intimidated downstairs when I saw the big, neon CBRE sign. I didn’t know if I should go in or not. Do you welcome the public in or is this more for the people who work here?
Paul: First and foremost, it’s a place where people go to work. It’s primarily for our employees and clients. One of the things that we thought about was, when we move to a very public place like a mall, we’re going to have more people stop in. We’ve welcomed people who happened to stumble into our space.
They asked, “What do you do? Tell me about your space?” We’re welcoming all people to come through whenever they want. First and foremost, it is a place of business. We’re navigating some nuances that we’re not used to. Overall, it’s been great so far.
Amanda: This office is a step above the rest. What’s your message to people who are working in real estate or other closely related fields? What do you want them to know about this space?
Paul: In today’s environment, it’s about recruiting and retaining the best people. That could be in sales, financing, property management or a host of other things. If there are people working for other companies and industries who have an interest in anything associated with commercial real estate, our goal is to be an employer of choice.
A significant element of being an employer of choice is, what is your work place like? What’s the culture that it fosters? Based on our move here, we want it to be an opportunity to recruit and retain the best talent. If there are people out there who have an interest in commercial real estate and are looking for a new opportunity, we’re always open to entertaining new ideas about how we can incorporate the best talent into our firm.
Amanda: Do those agents come and talk to one person? Is it you? Are there different teams?
Paul: There are a lot of avenues. We’re a big company. I can always be a starting place for anyone. I may not have all the answers, but I can find the right people who have the answers.
Amanda: Do you have any final words about this amazing office here?
Paul: It’s been an amazing journey. People are resilient. Sometimes you have to challenge them beyond what they’re comfortable with. Sometimes they don’t realize what they want until they have it. Putting together a really good project plan, crafting the vision and showing how you’re going to achieve that vision has been a challenge with this project.
For me personally, that’s the part that’s been the most rewarding in getting people to where we are today. The impact of this space, the location, the design, all of the elements, and the impact on our people and our culture have been incredible. It has exceeded all of our expectations.
Amanda: It impacts the community as well. I can’t wait for your next public event. Thank you so much for your time today, Paul. If anyone wants to stop by and ask Paul a few questions, he’s welcoming you to do that.
Paul: Thank you.
Amanda: It was nice to talk with Paul about the CBRE office that’s open in UTC. I know what you’re dying to know about is the One Paseo project. I sat down with Carrie Bobb to learn about the details and how it will impact our fabulous San Diego community.
We’re here with Carrie Bobb. She’s an incredible lady. I want to talk to you about what’s going on in San Diego, these mixed-use spaces and how it all ties together. There’s so much going on.
Carrie: This project is amazing. Westfield had done an amazing job tying it all together. Everything is beautiful. I love our office. It’s where everything is going today with the best office projects and the best retails projects. The lines are being blurred. It’s all being tied together. That’s the essence of One Paseo.
Amanda: People keep asking me about it. I drive by almost every day. What is it exactly?
Carrie: It’s retail, office and residential. There is 95,000 square feet of retail, 280,000 square feet of office and 608 residential units. Every aspect of it is absolutely beautiful. They’re executing flawlessly on each segment. The residential is beautiful. The office is cutting edge. The retail is softer with a heavy emphasis on place making experiential retail.
Amanda: What is place making?
Carrie: The idea is that it’s a cool place to hang out with great shops and great restaurants. It’s more about how you feel when you’re there, evoking emotion and being in a cool place where you want to hang out with your friends and family. We’re picturing people in Carmel Valley in their neighborhoods standing on their driveway on a Friday night. The kids are running around. They’re saying, “What do we want to do tonight?” They say, “We’ll go to One Paseo and figure it out when we get there.”
Amanda: With the different mixed uses, will there be people living there, too?
Amanda: It’s not just another mall.
Carrie: It’s definitely not a mall. It’s small. It’s only 95,000 square feet. It’s very quaint and charming. It’s executed really well. Great restaurants and retailers are coming. We’re waiting to announce a few things. I wish I could tell you now. You will love it. It’s going to be great. I’m proud to be working on it.
Amanda: Did you have the vision for One Paseo and then it was about finding the location, or did you have this location and you didn’t know what to do with it?
Carrie: Kilroy is the developer. Their inspiration and vision for the retail part is a country mart. The inspiration is the Malibu Country Mart in the Bay Area. It’s almost like 12 to 14 different barn-type cottages across the property. You make little discoveries as you walk through the project. It’s not linear. You have to wander and meander. There are great common spaces, like the kid’s playground area. It is hollowed out trees. Kids can crawl in and out of them. Adults can do it, too. They have mason jar lighting hanging above the tables. Every detail has been thought through.
Amanda: People are wondering about traffic and parking. How will everyone get there? Have you addressed some of those things? How has the planning been going with that?
Carrie: The parking deck is done. There are many different points of entry. The access is really simple. Everyone goes into the parking deck at the entrance of the project. All paths lead to the parking deck. There is a high-tech system that tells you how many minutes for short-term parking, how many spaces are full and free. They’re trying to make it as easy as possible.
Amanda: I think it will be a benefit to people. As the community grows, this is another option that people have. They can shop and hang out. It’s for the better. Many people were nervous about it coming in. Was there something else planning on going in that space before they decided on that?
Carrie: The retail aspect of the project is really different than what was planned five to seven years ago. It’s been scaled down significantly. The design is so different. The people who were fearful of traffic are going to love hanging out there. The aesthetic and design of what they’ve done with the country mart, people who are in attendance have a change in body language. They lean in to see more. They’ve done a great job on the design.
Amanda: Has the business population been excited about this space?
Amanda: It’s packed in there already.
Carrie: We are merchandising it for the residents, too. The office and retail are close. The office and retail tenants tie in. The restaurants can cater to the office, much like they did here.
Amanda: It’s been amazing coming here today to visit this office. There’s so much going on in UTC right now. San Diego is booming. It’s growing and growing. I think it’s great. We have a problem with not enough houses. Hopefully we’re addressing that a bit. Is there anything else that you wanted to say about One Paseo? When will it be done?
Carrie: We’re shooting for March 2019 for a grand opening. We’re moving fast. I’m excited for you to shop there.
Amanda: Me too. I live right down the road. I will be there. Thank you so much, Carrie, for talking with me about One Paseo.
Peltzer Winery Offers Something for Everyone This Halloween
“Days of wine and roses laugh and run away, like a child at play.” –Johnny Mercer
Recently we were searching for a pumpkin patch that includes the whole family here in San Diego. (Check out our story on carving pumpkins The Bridges community in Rancho Santa Fe.) We were looking through ideas on Facebook, when suddenly our good friend Melissa’s photos and videos popped up from a WINERY in Temecula that is also a pumpkin patch! What a great idea!! Definitely fun for the adults and kids! We knew we had to learn more asap, so I asked Marissa a few questions. Here’s what she had to say about her experience at Peltzer Winery:
Amanda: Marissa this winery/pumpkin patch looks amazing! Where is it located?
Amanda: How long did it take you to get there, and how was the parking?
Marissa: It took about 45 minutes by car. The parking was FREE and easy! There really were not a ton of other people there, so it wasn’t crowded at all, which made for lots of perfect photo ops with the kids.
Amanda: Tell me more about the wine? How did that work?
Marissa: They have a wine tasting experience for $20 in their new farmhouse-style Crush House; it’s a great way to unwind after you’ve picked out pumpkins with the family. There is ample room for kids to run around outside too.
Amanda: That sounds amazing! Do they serve food or snacks?
Marissa: They had 2 food trucks while we were there. BBQ and German food. They seem to have a nice rotation of food trucks and events on their event calendar.
Amanda: Yum! And what about the pumpkins? Did you pick them out of a large variety?
Marissa: Oh, yes! There were lots and lots of pumpkins to choose from when we were there. They have wheelbarrows available to help haul your pumpkins (and kids) to the car. They also have other fun activities for kids, including gem mining, a petting zoo, train rides, pig races, and pony rides! Make sure if you’re going with kids that you bring quarters for food at the petting zoo.
Amanda: Wow that is a lot to do all in one day!! How much does it cost overall?
Marissa: There is no entry free, but there are separate a la carte fees for the petting zoo and train or pony rides. Pumpkin costs are based on size and not weight.
Amanda: Sounds amazing! Did you have fun?
Marissa: Our family had the best time. This is more of an idyllic setting, a nice change from the big tents that you find closer to the city. The adults were having just as much fun as the kids! We will definitely go back again next year!
It was so great to get to talk to Marissa a bit more about her family’s experience at Peltzer Winery, and it really sounds like the perfect place for a full day pumpkin excursion. If you’re looking for a place to go before Halloween still, make sure to check out this winery and have fun with your family! Have you been here before? How was your experience?
Help Support Declining Species by Attending a Special Mission Wildlife Event in San Diego
Mission Wildlife is a wonderful organization that helps educate people about declining animal species. Each year, they host a fundraiser at a private home in San Diego, and this year promises to be another wonderful experience! (Buy tickets here!) We got a chance to sit down with Julie Scardina, Animal Ambassador, and talk to her about this upcoming event and what it really means to the organizations it will help on October 7th when it happens.
Tickets are available now here at this Eventbrite link. There are two types of tickets you can purchase, a general admission ticket, or for a bit extra, you can purchase a VIP ticket, giving you admission into the event over an hour early. This will allow you to meet the animals and get very close and personal with them.
Once the general event begins, there will be animal demonstrations and announcements but there will be limited time to meet the animals, so make sure to grab a VIP ticket and get there early! See you there!
Here’s what Julie had to say (and don’t miss the ending where I demonstrate how Mission Wildlife will be receiving donations via a feathered friend of Julie’s!!):
Amanda: Hey everyone. It’s Amanda with the San Diego Lifestyle. I’m here today with a really exciting guest, and a co-guest who is even more exciting. This is Julie Scardina and she is with Mission Wildlife. Why don’t you tell us who you are and how you came to do this?
Julie: My background has always been with animals. I’ve been an animal lover since I was born. I’ve worked for many years for Sea World and Busch Gardens. I was able to do a lot of amazing and spectacular things, one of which became a passion for me. This was conservation.
I realized that the animals we worked with at Sea World are ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Through that process of learning more about what is going on in the wild, I realized that there are a lot of big issues out there. In the last 40 years, more than 50% of the animals on the planet have disappeared. That’s huge in terms of numbers.
It has become my life’s passion to be active in conservation and figuring out ways that we can help. One of the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do is travel a lot. I’ve been to all seven continents. Every trip is amazing. I love seeing new places, and especially viewing wildlife when I’m there. Going to Africa the first time blew me away.
There is the diversity and number of animals that are there. Seeing the changes in the last 20 years that I’ve been going is something that I felt we need to do something about. I was on a trip in 2013 with friends and family. We visited some conservation partners Ewaso Lions, Uganda Conservation Foundation and Save the Elephants.
On the way home, we said, “We have to do something to help these organizations fulfill their missions and help save these species.” So, we did. We created a fundraiser that became known as Mission Wildlife. This is our fourth year. On October 7th this year in Poway, we’re having our fourth fundraiser.
It’s not just about raising funds for these organizations but also about raising awareness. We do it in a way that is fun and entertaining. You come and meet animals. We brought one of the ambassadors. This is Brisbane.
Amanda: What kind of animal is he?
Julie: Brisbane is an umbrella cockatoo, or a white cockatoo. He is just one of the many ambassadors. He will be collecting donations. We’re practicing this. We’ll also have other animal ambassadors there to meet, such as a serval from Africa. It’s a small to medium-sized wild cat.
We’ll have a lemur, which was made famous from the Madagascar movies. We’ll also have a number of other different species, hopefully an African porcupine. Sea World will hopefully be able to bring some of their ambassadors. I’m hoping for a penguin.
Amanda: You never really know what you’re going to get.
Julie: No. We’ve had a variety of animals over the past few years. It depends on what’s available.
It’s only $50 for a ticket if you get it before September 25th. After that, it will be around $60. There is also a VIP event that gets you there about an hour and fifteen minutes early. This means that you have greater access to the animals. We’ll have the animals out. We will have some otters as well.
The venue is a private home with a swimming pool. I have a feeling that there might be otters in the swimming pool. There will be a lot of fun stuff. There will be a live auction and a silent auction. We have a formal safari that will be auctioned off in Namibia through Piper and Heath. Piper and Heath has been fantastic. They’ve been our main sponsor for all four years. If anyone wants to travel to Africa, I recommend going with Piper and Heath.
There is no one that comes close to the amount of attention to detail. Chris and Emily own it. Chris is from Namibia, so he knows what he’s talking about. He was my guide when I went on safari in Namibia with Jack Hanna 15 years ago. He and his wife moved to San Diego. They now have two boys. They are a great family.
Amanda: Did you disconnect and then reconnect with them in a different way?
Julie: Yes, I halfway kept in contact with Emily since she was in San Diego.
Amanda: What time does the VIP event start?
Julie: The VIP starts at 3:30 in the afternoon. Then the main event starts at 4:45. You can buy tickets for either one. We’ll have valet parking, food, wine and animal ambassadors. The conservationists are coming from Africa to talk about the work that they’re doing. People will get a chance to interact with the conservationists.
One is Laurie Marker. We are supporting cheetahs this year. Every year, we pick two different organizations that are working to save an imperiled species. A lot of people realize that cheetahs are in danger. Cheetah Conservation Fund has been working to save the cheetah for many years. Laurie Marker has been their founder and executive director for the entire time. She’ll be at the event speaking for a few minutes.
It’s about getting to know them on a personal level, asking them questions and interacting. We will also have Julian Fennessy who founded Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Most people do not realize that giraffes are in severe decline.
Amanda: I did not know that. Giraffes are my favorite animals.
Julie: It’s really important. Raising awareness is important but also the fact of helping these organizations to help save the species. That is critical. Giraffe Conservation Foundation is the only organization working totally to save giraffes. It’s really important that we help them and get them support so that they can continue to do the research.
They’re just starting to publish the fact that giraffes are one species even though there are all of these different types. They recently figured out genetically that there are four different species. That helps because one might be endangered where another one might be threatened. This helps with protection and for us to understand what their populations need.
Amanda: There is so much studying that has to go on with this, for years, and in so many different areas on the planet for this. I remember when I first went to your event. It was all about bonobos. A good friend of mine, Debbie Sandler, loves bonobos. I had no idea what a bonobo was.
Julie: That’s what happens.
Amanda: At the event, I remember them saying, “Who knows what a bonobo is?” Not very many people did. I’m glad that there are events like this that bring awareness and teach. It’s educational but in a fun way where you get together with other people in a fun atmosphere. It’s laid back. It was so much fun. We go every year now.
Julie: That’s what we’ve found. Once someone goes once, they want to come back again and again. We’re expecting well over 100 people. Our fundraising goal this year is $50,000. We’re going to try and double it next year so we want to get new people coming.
That’s why we’re reaching out and asking for help in supporting these organizations. We have Sea World locally that has supported us as a main donor. They’ve supported us with tickets. The VIPs also get a goody bag, which is not necessarily little. There will be some Sea World tickets in it and other swag. It will be a really fun event.
We also have the Annenberg Foundation from LA. They are helping us through a donation. Our committee is made up of local San Diegans. Deb Sandler is on our committee as well as a few folks from Sea World, Julie Byford and Heather Armentrout, and her husband Anthony Armentrout.
Then we have the Piper and Heath crew, which is Chris and Emily Laubenberg and Mark Fullman. Everyone has helped all year long. We plan for this event all year long It’s an amazing event. I have no doubt that anyone who comes will feel like $50 was way less than what they’d pay for an event like this.
Amanda: It’s like a complete VIP experience getting to be this close to the animals. I remember when a penguin came out right in front of me. You do not get to do that. It would cost thousands at Sea World.
Julie: We will have our animal show as well as the animal meet and greets.
Amanda: Is that the best way for people to donate to the cause, to come to the event? People might think, “Giraffes are declining, but what I can really do to make a difference?” Where does this money go? How does it make a difference?
Julie: One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event go to these organizations. From the tickets, there is a fee that Eventbrite charges. There is no administration. There are no people we are paying. Wildlife Conservation Network based in San Francisco is acting as our umbrella organization that the fees go through. They cover all of those administrative fees and credit card fees. Anyone who comes is helping those organizations directly. If you cannot come, please feel free to make a donation on the site.
Amanda: Buy tickets and mail them to a friend or give them to a neighbor.
Julie: Find your favorite animal, go online and find an organization that is doing good work. Over the years, we have supported several different organizations. There are so many that need our help. Most people don’t realize that lions are in severe decline. There used to be hundreds of thousands of lions. Now there are less than 30,000.
You found out about bonobos. They are only found in one country and they are declining. There are a lot of reasons, like loss of habitat, illegal wildlife trade and conflict with humans because of the growing human population. We need to support those people who are living in Africa, in the field and getting the work done.
That’s a really great way to help prevent these extinctions. Other ways are making sure that you are an informed consumer and you’re not buying any products that would lead to endangerment, such as live animal products or parts and pieces of animals like ivory from elephants. Up until about five or six years ago, a lot of people didn’t put together, “If I buy a little ivory statue, that means that an elephant was killed for it.” Unfortunately, there is an elephant killed every 15 minutes for its ivory. We’ve raised money for organizations to help.
This is an awareness driving event. I take groups to Africa every year. I remember a man who had called me after we talked about what we were going to be doing as a group. He said, “My wife asked me, what’s the name of the Z country that we’re going to?” People don’t really know Africa. After we went, we met with the Painted Dog folks. Painted dogs are critically endangered. We met with some of these organizations and people who are doing work there.
They come back. They want to go to the fundraiser. They want to help the causes. Now they understand. They also understand what behaviors and mechanisms are happening and how we can help prevent it. I’d like Brisbane to show you a demonstration. Hand him $1. We’ll be taking hundreds and twenties at the event. He gets a treat for that. We would love it if anyone who is interested would come and participate or make a donation.
Amanda: Thank you so much for talking to me today, Julie. Thanks to everyone watching. Come to the event. I can’t wait. I’ll be there. I’ll probably bring my camera and record some of the special things going on. Hopefully this brings a lot of awareness so that people show up.
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