Paw it Forward: ROAR raises more than $100,000 at ‘Laughter’ event

The Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue (ROAR) achieved all its goals with the ROAR with Laughter gala last March 4 at 6:30 p.m., according to Ms. Pam Rybarczyk, one of the organizers. The theme for this year’s fundraiser was ‘Paw it Forward.’

ROAR frequently raises figures in the six-digit range. The money goes toward caring for the dogs and cats, which are state-neutered, microchipped vaccinated, and nursed to full health being put up for adoption.

“People genuinely come up to us as they leave, saying that this was great, that they had a great time, that they were glad they came, and that ROAR is a great organization," Ms. Rybarczyk said. "That’s the best part of the whole night for me.”

For the first time in the fundraiser’s history, tickets were only available for purchase online. Additionally, ROAR partnered with 501 Auctions to open a new online silent auction. During the event itself, ROAR set up laptops and iPads in the event to help people who did not bring their smartphones bid online.

“I believe we are the first gala in Ridgefield to try online bidding," Ms. Rybarczyk said. “We’re very, very good at running the fundraiser, since we have a lot of experience, but we wanted to take it to the next level. I think it’s going to catch on with everybody in the area because every major nonprofit in the tristate area and the country is using electronic bidding. Hopefully, this will be a breakthrough year.”

Ms. Rybarczyk said that the 206 gala tickets sold significantly faster than in prior years, selling out in three weeks. At the same time, she remarked that it was significantly more difficult to get patrons to pre-register to bid online this year. Ms. Rybarczyk could not pinpoint the reason for this phenomenon.


During the gala, ROAR honored Ms. Mary-Jo Duffy with the 2017 Community Star Award for her extraordinary dedication, as well as Cornell University Veterinary Specialists with the 2017 Business Star Award for their committed help.

Ms. Duffy has volunteered at ROAR for over a decade, helping ROAR expand its therapy dog program to over 30 teams and organize its Pets for Vets program. She has served on the Board of Directors and was its President for two years.

“It’s very meaningful for me to receive this award because I’ve been at ROAR as a volunteer for just over ten years," she said. "This is recognizing and acknowledging my commitment to the shelter, which is especially significant to me, because I absolutely love ROAR.”

Cornell University Veterinary Specialists has offered their specialty services to ROAR for many years. Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Susan Hackner said, “They exclusively use us for their specialty care, whether it is internal medicine, diagnostics, surgery, or critical care.”

“It’s been a great relationship; they are very high quality rescue pets, and ROAR is always looking out for the best for their pets, and frankly, we’ve provided the best medicine. We are owned by Cornell University, which has the number one veterinary school in the nation, and we have the expectation for an extraordinarily high level of care. So it’s been a really wonderful relationship we’ve had with them for about five or six years now.”


The planning for the ROAR with Laughter fundraiser starts early, in the late spring or summer. ROAR forms multiple committees to plan the event, including a venue committee, food and drinks committee, decorating committee, budgetary committee, PR committee, and the silent and live auctions committee.

The organization decides on a different theme each year.

“We try to come up with something that we feel accurately describes what we’ve done this year or what our hopes are for the future," Ms. Rybarczyk said. "With ‘Paw it Forward,’ we’re asking people to support our commitment to being the model shelter for the entire area. What we do, we do really well.”

This year, stand-up comedian Mr. McCarthy headlined the gala. Ms. Rybarczyk and her husband frequent regional venues to find a comedian for the event. “We try to have the comedy be funny, but not off-color. We never know if someone will buy a whole table in our event and bring children, so we like to keep the comedy at a PG-13 level. We also try to have someone with experience headlining a show, such as Letterman,” she remarked.

Mr. McCarthy expressed his appreciation for the opportunity. He frequently performs around the area, and he has done shows in the Ridgefield Playhouse before.  

“It’s a great honor to be at the gala, and I’m very appreciative," he said. I’m very happy to hear what the cause was; I’m a dog lover myself.”

In addition, ROAR debuted various new activities in the gala this year, including a $25 wine pull, in which participants picked a random and unidentifiable wine bottle to open. The value of the wine could range from $25-$200. ROAR also organized a Wheel of Fortune puzzle with a common adage related to animals for everyone to solve. Attendees could buy vowels, consonants, and spaces.

ROAR with Laughter first began twelve years ago. Ms. Rybarczyk had been to a fundraiser years ago called Cocktails and Comedy, which was hosted by a local organization that later disbanded. She had suggested holding an event similar to Cocktails and Comedy to ROAR, and this idea eventually became the ROAR with Laughter fundraiser. ROAR held the gala at the Ridgefield Park and Recreation Center for five years, moving to the Danbury Matrix Center for a year before settling down at the Ridgefield BMV Dealership.

“The whole evening is always great," Ms. Rybarczyk said. "To see the passion just explode in the room, and over 200 people all wanting to help give to ROAR, is a really good feeling.”