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Couple busy preparing for second annual Island Gala

By Staff | Feb 16, 2011

Surrounded by their dogs Shadow, Rio and Tuxie, Mark and Wanda Shefts created The Onyx & Breezy Foundation in 2004. They split their time between residences in Sanibel and Tuxedo Park, N.Y.

Following a successful fundraiser held last spring at Ellington’s Jazz Bar & Restaurant, Mark and Wanda Shefts were hoping to be able to offer the opportunity to attend the second annual Island Gala — a fundraiser for The Onyx & Breezy Foundation — to even more local supporters and animal lovers.

Their wish will come true on Sunday, March 27, when the Shefts will again host an evening of comedy, fine dining, dancing and both live and silent auctions at The Sanctuary Golf Club.

“Last year, we had to turn people away because we ran out of room,” said Mark Shefts, co-founder and trustee. “The Sanctuary gives us a larger venue that will hopefully increase attendance to the fundraiser. People are already calling us to ask about tickets.”

The Onyx & Breeze Foundation, created in 2004 by the Shefts to honor the memory of their two labrador retrievers, assists domestic animals in a variety of ways. The foundation lends financial support to the funding of equipment for medical facilities, much needed research and organizations that benefit animals. In addition, it helps provide medical treatment for animals where hardship is present as well as other endeavors that benefit the welfare of animals.

“The island has really gotten behind our cause, I think, because nobody else here is supporting the welfare of domestic animals,” said Wanda Shefts, fellow trustee and co-founder. “Every dollar that we raise, through fundraising efforts like the Island Gala, goes toward helping animals in Lee County. In a way, we feel like we’re a compliment to organizations like CROW (The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife). They help the animals in the wild, and we help the animals in your home.”

Comedienne Wendy Liebman has appeared on "Late Show with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and "Comic Relief VII."

As part of the Island Gala festivities, which includes an open bar, three-course meal, music and dancing, comedienne Wendy Liebman will provide the entrainment for the evening. Winner of the American Comedy Award for “Best Female Stand-Up,” Liebman has appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “HBO’s Women of the Night” and “Comic Relief VII.”

In addition, actor Ken Howard, national spokesman and executive board member for The Onyx and Breezy Foundation, will be in attendance.

“I think most people will remember him from ‘The White Shadow’ or have seen him recently on ’30 Rock,’ by Ken has been a good friend of ours for many years,” added Wanda, who recently joined Howard and his wife, Linda, attending the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Hollywood last month. “He is very charismatic and a great story-teller.”

Howard, who has played Thomas Jefferson in the film “1776” and a former Dunder Mifflin executive on the NBC series “The Office,” is proud to be associated with a foundation where 100 percent of all money donated goes directly to the welfare of animals.

“These days, people want to know where and how their donations are being spent,” said Howard, who was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2009. “You can feel comfortable knowing your dollars are going to the care of the animals that so desperately need it.”

Mark and Wanda Shefts attended the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards with SAG President Ken Howard and his wife, Linda.

Comedienne Elayne Boosler, who performed at last year’s Island Gala, offered her praise for the foundation.

“In my 14 years of rescue work, I have not come across an animal welfare organization as compassionate, pro-active and accomplished as The Onyx and Breezy Foundation,” said Boosler. “Through helping rescues, shelters, sanctuaries, funding equipment for medical facilities, research, supporting spay/neuter programs, disaster relief, food, medicine, supplies, fighting puppy mills and even funding for individuals where hardship is present, they are doing everything possible to make a better world for animals and their people.”

A number of celebrities have lent their support to the Shefts’ cause, including longtime animal advocate and legendary actress Betty White.

“From someone who’s loved animals all my life, I’m so impressed by the passion and dedication of The Onyx and Breezy Foundation and their work to help animals in need,” said White. “Bless you.”

During the Island Gala, both live and silent auctions will be held. Mark and Wanda hope that people attending the event will raise more than last year’s total of $47,000.

“Of course, I’d like us to raise more, but I’m happy because every dollar that we raise goes to helping our furry friends,” said Wanda. “One of the best compliments we can get is to sell out. We’re always glad to know that people are behind us.”

Although the official list of items going into the auction hasn’t been announced, some of the items that has been confirmed is an afternoon excursion on a 42-foot luxury yacht, with lunch on Useppa Island, a George Clooney autographed poster, a Ken Howard signed basketball, artwork, jewelry, gourmet dinner for 10 guests, wine baskets and dog baskets, plus a number of other surprises.

“We would like to do more fundraisers because we are looking to support more causes that will help animals,” added Mark. “We can’t just sit back and wait for money to come in. The more sponsors and the more supporters we get allows us to make an even greater impact.”

Tickets to the Island Gala are $150 and may be purchased by calling 239-850-9998. To learn more about The Onyx and Breezy Foundation, visit www.onyxandbreezy.org.

The Shefts also wanted to offer their thanks to many island businesses who have supported their efforts, including Tracy and Liza from Over Easy Cafe/Island Paws, Domizio Melchiorre for Tribeca Salon and Dan Schuyler and Karen Bell from Lily & Co. Jewelers, among several others.

“The support that we have received from everyone on Sanibel means the world to us,” said Wanda. “If I didn’t believe in this, I couldn’t do it.”