It started with a garden party.
Lori Parrish estimates there are more than a thousand varieties of orchid in her garden in west Davie. So when three years ago, Mark Ketcham, executive director at SunServe, approached Parrish about holding a benefit in her honor, she instead offered to host a charity to benefit SunServe. She thought her garden would be the perfect place.
“It was all very British; tea and crumpets… well spiked tea. With vodka,” said garden party guest and SunServe administrative director, Bryan Wilson.
Now, the garden party that began in 2012 among Parrish’s extensive array of orchids, has bloomed into its own, full on festival, benefitting SunServe and now Share-A-Pet. Share-A-Pet is a nonprofit that provides free pet assisted therapy to hospitals, nursing homes, and children’s centers.
SunServe is a local LGBTQ social service agency. Parrish served as a member of the Broward County Commission from 1988 until leaving in 2004 to run for Broward County Property Appraiser, the office she holds now. Parrish is listed in SunServe’s Guardian Circle as a silver level contributor.
“I have been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, and they have been supportive of me,” said Parrish.
While the fundraiser was a continued success over the next few years, Parrish and Wilson noted that the group of guests had remained at the same core of about 60 people. Wanting to expand, they decided it was time to move the event to a more accessible location, Wilton Manors’ Richardson Park, in the hopes of gathering new attendees.
The new and improved fundraiser, now called Bunnies on the Drive, will feature at least one carry over from the original garden party, the bonnet contest, judged by fellow local philanthropist Rita Case, of Rick Case Automotive Group.
“Rita always wears these great hats, so we thought she’d be perfect,” said Parrish.
What are the criteria for judging? “Outrageousness,” said Wilson, who had previously garnered second place in the competition.
“I had a bird, not a real one, in a cage on my bonnet, and I promised to release it and set it free in the spirit of the LGBT community if I placed.”
A new feature in the garden party lineup will be the Gym Bunny competition, sponsored by the Village Pub. Contestants are encouraged to show up and show out in their best gym bunny outfits, but are also asked to keep things “kid friendly” as this will be a family friendly event.
Children and their families can enter contests like the water balloon race, and the bunny toss. Contestants will attempt to win prizes by tossing toy bunnies from the second story balcony of the Richardson Family Manor, into gift baskets donated by the various sponsors.
Wilson thinks the new choice of location will help add to the sense of common ground and community that he and other members of SunServe work to foster. And the inclusion of Share-A-Pet as a new beneficiary will help diversify the group of contributors to that cause.
“People tend to think that sharing an event with another nonprofit sort of narrows the pool of donors, but it doesn’t. It broadens it. There are people who will come for SunServe that may never have heard of Share-A-Pet and vice versa,” said Wilson.
While the event is free for everyone, there is a suggested donation of 10 dollars.
The first annual Bunnies on the Drive will take place in Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve, 1937 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, on Saturday April 4from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.