Talk about a well-wrapped gift. Marc Nowak and the staff at The Woodmark Hotel hosted Thursday night's Save the Animals party in Kirkland...

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Talk about a well-wrapped gift.


Marc Nowak and the staff at The Woodmark Hotel hosted Thursday night’s Save the Animals party in Kirkland. The thank-you celebration honored everyone who contributed to the successful campaign to purchase statues of bears, bunnies and deer.


Volunteers raised more than $200,000 to purchase the Mountain Comrades (the bears), Close Quarters (the rabbits) and Bounding Mule Deer on display around downtown Kirkland. The statues had been on loan to the city from art collector Bill Ballantine.


“I felt like I was at the Oscars,” said Joan McBride, deputy mayor, who helped lead the drive. “I had a long list of thank-yous and kept worrying someone would yank me off the stage before I finished.”


Indeed, the thank-yous should have been long for this community on the shores of Lake Washington that consistently displays a small-town, caring attitude.


Nearly 1,000 people and businesses contributed money and time to secure funds for the statues. Honorees included Pat Shinstrom, who had the brilliant suggestion to include a note asking for donations in utility bills, and Mia Cooledge, a ninth-grader who has helped save statues, starting with “Puddle Jumpers” in 2001.


The well-wrapped gift?


It was the celebration party — a donation from the Woodmark. The event was held in a tent on the lawn next to Lake Washington.


“The tent withstood the windstorm,” McBride said. “With the heaters going, we felt well wrapped up and protected from the rain.”


Relief work


Speaking of building community — Issaquah folks have made hurricane relief a family affair.


Business people, service clubs and volunteers founded the Issaquah for Katrina Relief effort. They’ve adopted Picayune, a town in Mississippi about the same size as Issaquah, as a sister city. As of this week, the Issaquah group has raised about $65,000.


Meanwhile, in Picayune, service clubs formed a coalition to oversee spending the money appropriately. The first $10,000 will be split between the two school districts that serve the community.


Bill Werner, vice chairman of the Katrina group, made a trip to Picayune this week to survey the damage. He will be making the rounds of local service clubs to share pictures and raise more funds.


Donations will be accepted at the Issaquah Press booth at Issaquah’s Salmon Days festival today and tomorrow.


Cycle of love


Linda Armstrong Kelly, bicyclist Lance Armstrong’s mother, wowed the sellout crowd Tuesday at the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club luncheon.


The audience included cycling teams, cancer survivors and single parents who wanted to hear Kelly talk about commitment, survival and love. She described herself as Lance’s project manager when he was battling cancer.


Kelly added that as a single mom, she would have been grateful to have had a Boys & Girls Club as a resource when Lance was a child.


The event at The Golf Club of Newcastle raised more than $55,000.


Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com