By Megan Valle and Remi Schott
Sitting by the front door of the Bates House in East Setauket, Christy Zalak, owner of Twin Oaks Horse Sanctuary, wore a puffy white boa around her neck and a bright red feather in her hair. Two men dressed in suits and top hats ran towards her, screaming at the top of their lungs, making her clutch the table and then laugh, as she realized it was part of the live action, murder mystery show going on in the other room.
On Sunday, Nov. 11th, Twin Oaks Horse Sanctuary raised $9,500 at a themed fundraiser event at the Bates House in East Setauket. The theme of the night was Crime and Punishment a 1920s Murder Mystery Experience.
“We are going to use this money to get us through the winter because we can’t do fundraisers in the winter. You can’t plan an event like this and then have snow,” Zalak said.
The Twin Oaks Horse Sanctuary, located in Manorville, NY, needs a lot of repairs. The recent rain hit them hard, supplies for the horses are very expensive, and the property needs basic amenities like a bathroom and offices. Cynthia said the organization is 100% non-for profit and relies solely on fundraising and contributions from supports.
“This fundraiser is going towards, we need new roofing, we need a couple things built, with all this rain we are completely underwater, I need excavating done,” Cynthia said. “ All of this is going towards all of that and of course, feeding them [horses].”
It costs approximately $6,000 a month to keep the sanctuary running. Rent for the stables reaches $1,800 a month and the cost of hay every 5 weeks is around $2,600. Other expenses include grain, manure removal, worming, and shavings, among other things. These numbers exclude the cost of unexpected vet bills. And the numbers add up pretty fast.
Every fundraiser for Twin Oaks is different, Cynthia Steinmann, Director of Twin Oaks said. She hosts around 4 or 5 events a year, and always tries to make them something out of the ordinary.
“We do a comedy night, they usually end up turning into an annual thing,” Steinmann said. “We do the country night, this will be our 3rd country night, where we do line dancing and stuff like that. That was in September.”
This was the first time Cynthia hosted an event like this. Her hope along with the hope of her colleagues was to draw in a larger crowd because of the unique theme and to educate attendees, who would have otherwise not known much about her non-for profit and the importance of horse sanctuaries.
“We need to educate,” Nicolina Pitruzzella, a volunteer and recently appointed board member, said. “To educate people so they know what happens to them [horses] after their jobs are done at a school barn [or as] racehorses. They [owners] feel the need to earn their [horses] stay.”
The murder mystery, which was provided by the Murder Mystery Company, was an interactive roleplay show. Guests dressed in costumes from the 1920s and the actors stayed in character the whole night until the murder was solved.
The Murder Mystery Company often performs at fundraisers all over the world. While their headquarters is in Grand Rapids, they employ about 2,000 actors nationwide. The local talent is trained under the MMC’s improv method and perform at both public and private events multiple times a month.
“We really love working with fundraisers and the troops as well,” Pikaart said. “So we go overseas to Afghanistan and Iran and perform there as well, but it’s very important for us to participate in fundraisers.”
At the end of the show, certificates were handed out to the best actor and best actress of the night. Certificates for best dressed and best detective were also given out.
“Those are the experiences that we live for and that we really strive to do in engaging the audience the way we do,” Pikaart said.
Other than the murder mystery show, there were raffles, a 50/50 prize, baskets that were raffled off, and an auction for horse themed paintings by artist Dino Rinaldi. The paintings were provided by Rinaldi and were valued at over a thousand dollars each. $5,530 was raised through the raffle sales.
Manager of the Bates House, and supporter of women entrepreneurs, Lise Hintze, was more than happy to host the event for Cynthia and Twin Oaks.
“When I went out there, I could not believe my eyes. It was really in need of repair and it just broke my heart,” Hintze said. “I think women entrepreneurs need to be supported so I said you know what, we’re gonna put that fundraiser in the house for you and I will support you and I will help you in any way that I can.”