Raptor center leading in vote for much-needed funds|
The Antigo-based Raptor Education Group. Inc. has advanced to the next round of judging in a national online contest that carries a substantial financial reward.
According to Marge Gibson, founder and director of the center, voting closed this week in the Eagle Rare “Lead a Rare Life” contest, with the center receiving an event-leading 241,671 votes. That’s about 64,000 more votes than the runner-up. Voting could be done once daily.
It’s a significant hurdle, Gibson said, one that was surmounted with a great deal of help and voting by area residents, but there are more criteria before the center is declared the winner of the $40,000 grand prize.
“The Eagle Rare Company will make the final decision between now and March,” Gibson said. “The person with the most votes is not automatically the winner but this has already proven to be a tremendous honor, and very gratifying for me and the entire REGI organization.”
The top 20 submitted stories are now being judged by Eagle Rare or its independent agent. Final judging will take place until March 3 and will be based on relevance to the promotion theme, 40 percent; originality and creativity, 40 percent; story quality and clarity, 10 percent; and online voting by website visitors, 10 percent.
The top winner will receive the $40,000 grand prize, with six runners-up receiving $4,000 each.
“I was a reluctant nominee,” Gibson said. “Were it not for some great friends and the Feathered Hope organization pushing and pulling me through the process it would have never occurred to me that I fit any criteria for this contest. The Raptor Education Group, Inc. organization does, however, and that is how I justified the nomination.”
Operated by Ken and Lisadawn Schram, Feathered Hope is a regional business specializing in bird photography, with Gibson and REGI among its main subjects and beneficiaries of its stunning artwork.
“I remember telling Ken Schram of Feathered Hope from the inception of the contest that I didn’t think there would be enough votes for us,” Gibson said. “Many amazing people were in the running for this contest, some of which I know and respect. I was as wowed as everyone else when reading their nominations. I voted for other deserving individuals as well. I was glancing over an e-mail the other day in which I was telling a friend that I was dumbfounded to find that something over 3,000 votes had been cast early on in June. You can understand how the number 241,671 votes is almost more than I can comprehend.”
Gibson is an internationally respected avian rehabilitator whose life’s work has truly defined the field. Her research and documented case studies have provided invaluable insight into behaviors, nutritional needs, disease, rehabilitation procedures and post-release data of native bird species that is utilized worldwide.
She and REGI, a non-profit organization, are responsible for the rehabilitation of over 10,000 injured and orphaned wild birds, of which approximately 1,100 are bald and golden eagles.
State and federal cutbacks for wildlife programs has resulted in both a greater need for REGI’s services and an increased challenge in raising operating income; all of which now comes from public donations and the remains of the Gibson’s retirement fund. Today, REGI has grown to 11 patient buildings, a small clinic, and one of the country’s largest flight buildings for exercising bald eagles and other patients before release.
Regardless of the results, Gibson said she is gratified in the support REGI has received through the process.
“I have often said that no matter if we are declared the winner of the contest of not, I feel we have won in so many ways,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, the award money offered would do so much good for our patients and facility, but the friendships created and the educational aspects shared have been priceless.
“Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting us in this venture,” she said. “I run out of words expressive enough to relay my thanks and gratitude. You are an amazing group of friends, relatives and supporters and I appreciate you more than I can say.”
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