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Tickets on sale for CROW's Southern Comfort

March 2, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The approach of summer means the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife will see its number of patients double, even triple, but an end-of-season fundraiser enables it to continue saving lives.

Southern Comfort on Sanibel will be held on March 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Community House on Sanibel. Marking its fourth year, it will feature dinner, a live band, live auction, raffles and more.

Chair Diane Neitzel explained that CROW was looking for an event to celebrate the end of season, where the community and visitors could come together for some fun before parting ways. One that also would help raise the needed funds to support CROW's efforts though the summer or "baby season."

Article Photos

Event chair Diane Neitzel, left, and CROW Development Director Mary Schoeffel, hold a round hanging quilt of Ozzie the eagle while a sailor’s Valentine from She Sells Sea Shells is propped up in front of them. These are some of the auction items available at Southern Comfort on Sanibel.

"Summer is out busiest season," she said. "There are well over 200 patients at one time."

Not only does the hospital need medical supplies and food to take care of the two to three times more patients - as compared to the fall and winter - staff time also increases to handle all of the cases.

"It requires an inordinate amount of financing to get through the summer," Neitzel said.

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Advance tickets to the event are available through March 2 for $60. Afterward, tickets are $70.

Organizers noted that it is taking place earlier in the calendar year than in previous years.

"We're excited that it's more in season," she said.

Approximately 130 people attended the 2017 fundraiser.

"It has grown each year, in terms of sponsors and attendees," Neitzel said. "It's become a more successful event each year."

With CROW marking its 50th anniversary this year, the team aimed for bigger and better.

"We decided we needed to really ramp it up this year," she said.

Michael Binkowski, with Gulf Coast BBQ, will be catering the buffet dinner.

"He will bring his southern-style cooking and his smoker," Neitzel said.

She described it as a step up from last year's fried chicken.

"We've gone deeper into the south," Neitzel said.

For the first time, a live band - the Killa-Watts - will keep the crowd dancing. Comprised of five LCEC employees, the homegrown band performs year-round at various, local charitable events.

"In the past, we've had a deejay," she said.

CROW Development Director Mary Schoeffel noted that the live auction is back again.

"Everybody seemed to participate," she said of adding it to last year's fundraiser.

Neitzel noted that there are typically eight to 10 items on the auction block.

"There are a wide variety of different things," she said.

Some of the items include a dinner for four at the Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant with one of CROW's doctors, a one-hour plane ride for three over Sanibel and the islands, a sailor's Valentine from She Sells Sea Shells with dinner for two and an afternoon at the fire house plus lunch for up to eight.

There is also a round hanging quilt of the former Ozzie, from the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam.

"This will be really significant to a certain part of our membership," Neitzel said.

Another item is a private catered dinner by Sanibel chef Leslie Adams.

"She's going to do an in-house elegant five-course dinner for up to eight people," she said.

The event will feature raffle tickets for sale, with winners pulled every 30 minutes.

"Jewelry, gift baskets," Schoeffel said. "Fun things to do like wildlife walks."

Attendees have another opportunity to win prizes by playing a variety of games, from a bean bag toss and matching giant cards with animals on them, to wildlife Wheel of Fortune and a wine ring toss.

"We have everything from silly prizes to serious ones," Neitzel said.

Information about CROW will be presented, along with videos taken inside of the hospital.

"So we can share some of our information," she said.

To purchase tickets, visit online at or

"Flora and fauna are a real big part of our world," Neitzel said, adding that continued conservation and protection of them is needed. "If we don't speak for them, if we don't care for them, no one will."

Schoeffel noted that animals led to the discovery of red tide, the West Nile virus and more.

"They're the canaries in the coal mine," she said.

For more information, call 239-472-3644 or visit



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