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Big night for big cats at fundraising gala

by | Jun 13, 2024 | Area News, Latest

Vickey Keahey, founder and president of In-Sync Exotics, presents Tim Harrison a painting crafted by Lambert the lion at the Saturday, June 8 gala in Lavon. Harrison, a published author and documentary film star, was the keynote speaker. Courtesy Dave Smith

It was a star-studded affair Saturday night as the community gathered to support its hometown nonprofit, the world-renowned In-Sync Exotics.

Approximately 200 attendees, including local dignitaries, volunteers and supporters, attended the inaugural Whisker Wishes fundraising gala at the Venue at Boyd Farms in Lavon, Saturday, June 8.

The emcee for the evening, longtime supporter Lee Singletary, was introduced by Mayor Matthew Porter.

As guests enjoyed a plated dinner, a slideshow and footage from the sanctuary’s live camera feed highlighted some of the residents at rest and at play in their habitats. The sanctuary on Skyview Drive in Wylie is now home to 32 tigers, five lions, four leopards, six cougars, 15 bobcats, four servals, one savannah cat, two lemurs, two ligers, one cheetah, one horse, one donkey, three goats and six domestic cats.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Tim Harrison, star of the documentaries including “The Conservation Game” and author of “White Magic.” Harrison’s participation, sponsored by Tigers in America, underscores the collaborative spirit of wildlife conservation efforts.

Before Harrison took the stage, Vicky Keahey, founder of In-Sync Exotics, told her part of the story about the “tale of two Lamberts.”

“It doesn’t matter how many times I tell this story; I cannot tell them without crying, Keahey said tearfully, about Harrison’s documentary, “The Elephant in the Living Room.”

After watching the 2010 documentary, which she admitted she avoided watching for as long as she could, Keahey said, “I vowed that if I ever got a baby boy lion, I was going to name him Lambert. Because Lambert — Tim’s lion — deserved a much better life and a much more dignified death.”

It wasn’t too long after Keahey watched the documentary that she said, “my Lambert showed up.” She rescued him as a tiny 3-month-old cub from a family in Odessa.

Lambert at In-Sync

“I brought him home,” she said. “And he’s been named Lambert since before he got there. And he’s my savior, he’s my love … he’s everything to me.”

In a riveting 30 minutes at the podium, Harrison explained how he when first became involved in educating and advocating for the proper care of exotic animals. “You couldn’t find any places like In-Sync back then.”

Now, with facilities across the country, said Harrison, In-Sync is one of the top two.

“I would guarantee right now you have a premier facility right here in your area,” he added. “I don’t know why anyone — when I travel the world — would ever send $1 over to any place else when you’ve got animals here that need your help. These are American tigers. These are American lions. And it’s not their fault. They’re here, but it’s our fault.”

Harrison, a 68-year-old retired police officer, firefighter and paramedic from Ohio, is also the director of Outreach for Animals, a nonprofit founded in 2001.

In talking about his latest book, “White Magic,” Harrison explained how the term is used in the underground world. “At fairs and Hollywood parties when white magic comes in, everybody spends money,” he said. “Everybody wants to touch or have a picture taken with a white tiger. And that’s where the downfall is.”

Years of overbreeding, said Harrison, has led to all sorts of deformities in the white tigers. “It all started with the Cincinnati Zoo,” he said, adding “all these places started some of this using these animals for entertainment purposes.”

The author showed photos of his Lambert, along with examples of what his outreach organization does including dental work, contraception for big cats, moving animals across the country and much more.

Additionally, through his undercover investigation for his two award-winning documentaries, Harrison spoke of some of the abuse the animals encountered which has led him to become known as a “human animal advocate.”

“And that’s why I’m here. I came all the way from Dayton, Ohio,” he said. “And I just want you to know: This is a facility and you need to support it.”

In thanking Harrison, Keahey presented a picture to him painted by Lambert along with an adoption certificate for “her” Lambert.

“Now he’s our Lambert,” she said.

Local auctioneer Clay Potter got the audience moving and laughing with a wild game of “Whiskers or Tails” before successfully encouraging attendees to purchase sports tickets, vacation opportunities, wine and whiskey tastings or even donate cash during the live auction. Funds raised will go to help cover the cost of a new endoscopy machine and other medical equipment at the facility.

“My sincere thanks to everyone that came out and the supporters and sponsors that helped make our gala a huge success,” Keahey said. “I’m very grateful to Tim Harrison for sharing his stories and his glowing endorsement of In-Sync.”

To sponsor any one of In-Sync’s exotic cats, or to simply donate to the local nonprofit, visit insyncexotics.org.

For more stories about the Murphy community see the next print, or digital edition of the Murphy Monitor. Subscribe today and support local journalism.

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