For two Hound Ears couples, a life-changing journey of several thousand miles began with a single bid.
In August 2014, Club members Ron and Martha Calhoun decided to bid on one of the many amazing auction items up for grabs at the Hound Ears Open gala – a six-day/six-night photo safari in South Africa.
The two-day Open included a golf tournament, putting contest, cocktail party, live auction, silent auction and raffle; the event benefitted Chestnut Ridge, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s proposed post-acute care rehabilitative facility in Blowing Rock.
As fate would have it, the Calhouns ended up bidding on the same item as their good friends, Tim and Diane Miller.
“We ended up with the winning bid,” Martha said. “[Hound Ears Open Co-chair] Libba Gaither was able to get an additional trip donated to the auction for the Millers to purchase and we decided to take the trip together.”
Fast forward to 2016, when the couples embarked on their life-changing journey. In addition to the safari (which yielded a number of amazing photos – see link), the travelers explored Johannesburg for a few days as well.
“The safari lodge did an outstanding job of coordinating with us on accommodations and everything we did once we arrived,” Martha said. “The accommodations were so much more than I had expected. The rooms were large and nicely appointed. We were in a safari group with three other couples and feel we have made connections with these people that will be lasting.”
The photo safari offered something new and exciting each day. Some days, the group left at 4:30 am to watch the sunrise; other days afforded unique photo ops of indigenous wildlife eating, nursing or hunting.
The diversity of wildlife within the preserve proved outstanding: elephants, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, pythons, baboons, vervet monkeys, Nyala, Impala, water buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, crocodiles, vultures and (Martha’s favorite) wart hogs.
“Our guide, William, was Zulu and the knowledge he possessed and shared with us about the animal behaviors, their habitats and the dangers to their survival was an education to us all,” Martha said, adding “When your day is spent observing the beauty and wonder of nature, it is a moving experience. We will be forever grateful to the Hound Ears Open auction for presenting this opportunity to us.”
The Hound Ears Open represents the final phase of a five-year goal to contribute to the creation of the post-acute care rehabilitative facility. The facility will capitalize on a neighborhood concept and provide rehabilitation services, memory support care, extended care, palliative care and primary care in an on-site outpatient clinic. Over the past five years, the Hound Ears Open raised in excess of $500,000.