Wild about chocolate

By KATIE HURST/ Lifestyles Editor

Animal lovers can celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by indulging in favorite desserts while supporting flying friends at the Alabama Wildlife Center.

The center’s annual Wild About Chocolate Gala will be held Saturday, Feb. 12 from 7-10 p.m. at The Harbert Center in Birmingham.

Beth Bloomfield, executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Center, said the event is perfect for couples looking for a different way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

“The big feature of this event is a lavish chocolate dessert buffet,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, especially for people who don’t identify themselves as people who go to galas. It’s not an event where you sit down at a table with people you don’t know and eat the same old chicken dinner. At this, you’re up, wandering around, meeting people and, of course, sampling all these great chocolates.”

The chocolate buffet will feature signature desserts from 15 restaurants in the Birmingham area. Appetizers and complimentary wine will also be available along with a cash bar and ice cream bar, Bloomfield said.

A silent and live auction will feature items such as a triple-strand pearl necklace from Barton-Clay Fine Jewelry, an original oil painting from local artist Carolyn Goldsmith and a week-long beach vacation in Florida.

Bloomfield said her favorite item to be auctioned off is the Sweet Freedom experience from the Alabama Wildlife Center. The experience allows the winner to release one of the birds rehabilitated through the wildlife center back into the wild. The winner can invite guests to join the experience and a photographer will provide free pictures of the release, she said.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience,” Bloomfield said.

Money raised through ticket sales and auction bids will go directly to caring for the more than 16,000 injured and orphaned birds the wildlife center expects to house this year, Bloomfield said.

The center relies almost entirely on individual donations and fundraisers to provide medical care, food and shelter for the birds they rehabilitate each year, she said.

“The main cause for injured and orphaned birds is human interference,” Bloomfield said. “We feel it’s almost our sacred duty to restore them to the wild.”

Tickets for the event are $75 ahead of time and $100 at the door. For more information on the gala or to buy tickets visit the wildlife center’s website at AWRC.org.