Furvana, an all volunteer community of “furries”, that is committed to charity works, laid a big one on the Ocean Shores Food Bank, this weekend.
Chris Hodges (furry name: FritzyWolf), Furvana co-founder and co-chair
Alexander Visser (furry name: MetalFox), Furvana co-founder and co-chair
The group’s founders and co-chairs, Alexander Visser and Chris Hodges, along with Alexander’s parents, Jaye & Wolfgang Lill, and Dillon Chestnut, Chris’ husband and furry costume artist, drove to Ocean Shores from Seattle, Saturday, September 26, 2020, to bring the Ocean Shores Food Bank the proceeds from their recent incredibly successful online convention.
Wolfgang and Jaye Lill
Many of the OSFB volunteer staff, as well as some OSFB board members were present at the food bank for the presentation of a check to OSFB Executive Director, Sandy Harley.
We met, later in the afternoon, to talk about Furvana (what and why it is) and how they came to pick Ocean Shores as a venue for their charity efforts.
First, Just What IS “Furvana”?
Furries on the beach.
For those of you who did not attend last year’s convention, at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, and who are otherwise in the dark about furries and/or Furvana, here is the defining statement from the Furvana website (https://furvana.org/):
Furvana is a furry fandom and anthropomorphic arts convention running in the Pacific Northwest for its second year! Furvana happily welcomes all furries, artists, writers, performers, musicians, and anyone with a creative spirit. Hosted at the beautiful beachfront convention center in Ocean Shores Washington, Furvana is a place where fans of all ages can gather and celebrate their shared interests.
And their mission statement:
Furvana is an organization dedicated to providing a venue and events for the world wide anthropomorphic community and enthusiasts of anthropomorphic arts to gather together, allowing people of all ages and differences to feel safe and respected as they engage in community activities that bring anthropomorphism to life.
You can also find more about Furvana, and furries, on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/furvana/
Why Ocean Shores?
The planning for Furvana’s first convention was three years in the making.
After approaching many venues in the greater Seattle area with ideas for their first convention, last year, Alexander and Chris met with both resistance and unacceptable terms. Some convention venues declined due to first-time conventions typically having lower draw; some lacked interest in first-time conventions; many were just too expensive.
When attending a convention in Oregon, they were advised by someone there to check out the city of Ocean Shores, commended for its cohesive community, it’s hospitality industry, its convention center, and the many attractions within walking distance of both the venue and the accommodations.
So, they did, and found the price was right, the location, having the appeal of both giant beach and “road-trip” was not only suitable but actually desirous for an event venue.
How It All Went Down: Success
It all came together with last year’s convention, a fundraising event with just under 500 attendees, September 27-29, at the Ocean Shores Convention Center.
Alexander contends that the events that have the most success are the ones that become a part of the community. Furvana volunteers sought to build support within the community by engineering discount hotel accommodations, as well as discounts with various restaurants and retail outlets in Ocean Shores, for convention attendees.
Marriage proposal on the beach
Alexander emcees closing ceremony
Thanks to accommodating weather, there was a sand sculpture contest as well as an outdoor stage on the beach for presentation of awards. The beach stage was also the scene of the closing events, which included an attendee marriage proposal. Alexander has expressed that, though the wedding proposal was anticipated, and with a couple with whom he was acquainted, that, in the future, marriage proposals need to be approved ahead of time. No surprises, however endearing, please.
That first Furvana event raised a little over $3,000 for Coastal Raptors, an organization concerned with the long-term health and viability of raptors found along coastlines (https://coastalraptors.com).
The Challenges of 2020
Alexander (furry name: MetalFox) and Chris (FritzyWolf) explained that they were all set to conduct their second convention, this year, again at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, given the success of last year’s, but because of the Phase 3 status of the city, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that venue was not available. Another impediment to travel by potential attendees was non-local regions affected by the pandemic, such as Yakima and other areas east of the Cascades, as well as those north of the closed Canadian border.
So, Alexander and Chris decided to try something different. And how different it was!
With the help of generous and skilled connections, people who had been conducting online events since before the pandemic, and with a fervent volunteer fan base, they were able to put together an online convention, a live stream event, using a game platform called “Twitch”. That game platform enabled them to put on a live stream fundraising campaign that not only allowed but encouraged people to donate, from small amounts to large – more on that later – with the simple click of a button.
This event included an amount ticker to show the level of total donations as they occurred. The result of each donation was an “instant reward” for each donor in the form of a flutter of confetti on the screen, along with a display of the donor’s name for all to see, and for those donating above a certain amount, donors were also permitted to type a comment that appeared to all online participants.
Furvana Convention Mascot
So, at this point, you are no doubt wondering how much they donated. You are going to have to read on.
Being their first time at this type of online fundraising effort, Chris and Alexander, who had already chosen the Ocean Shores Food Bank as recipient, initially set their goal at a modest $1,000, with absolutely no idea what the live stream response would be, and with the online convention intended to last for 8 hours, from 5pm to 1am. Within the first two hours, they achieved the initial goal, so they decided to raise the goal to match what they achieved at last year’s event, $3000. In around another hour, they hit the second mark.
Then the “Ebay syndrome” kicked in. One participant donated $500. Within mere moments, a challenger donated $500.01. The first changed his/her donation to $1,000. The second changed his/hers to $1,000.11.
The jockeying for first position continued between the two contenders until, upon changing the first amount to $2,500, the second contender rallied with $2,500.11. Over $5,000 was donated by just two participants.
It hovered at that amount until late, around midnight, when they figured attendance would taper off as the East coast participants hit the wall, it being around 3am, local time, so they instituted a thing they referred to as “bedtime stories”, where a volunteer read, aloud, to the attendees.
As the total approached $10,000, Chris, on a whim, issued a challenge to the remaining online participants. He suggested that if they could hit the ten thousand dollar mark, he’d drink a shot of “Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce”, a hot pepper infused concoction, which packs 357,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), a heat purported to “take your breath away”.
The participants accommodated, one person donating $800.
Chris is still looking for his tongue.
Chris Hodges, Sandy Harley, and Alexander Visser — and the big check
And a Big Thank You to All Those Civic-Minded Furries
The Board of Directors and all the staff of the Ocean Shores Food Bank, as well as all those guests of the OSFB would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Alexander, Chris, and all others of the Furvana community for their generous donation.
Minus the unavoidable PayPal fees, Furvana handed OSFB Excutive Director, Sandy Harley a check for $9,791.72!
>>> OSFB DONATE TODAY – Click DONATE TODAY or send your check to Ocean Shores Food Bank, PO Box 1293, Ocean Shores, WA 98569.
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