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The Grey PoopOn Challenge

An interview with Valerie Wixen, former AHN Advisory Board Member.


After a precious Timneh named Mocha was lost to PDD, Valerie Wixen used the Internet to leverage an extremely successful grass roots fundraising effort to advance PDD research.

We asked her to tell us how it happened, and here's what she said...

AHN: How did you get the idea to raise money for PDD research?

VW: When I lost Mocha in 1997, and I was talking to the CAGTAG list, a man by the name of Dimitri Deharak suggested that folks help me with my Vet bills and donate to Dr. Ritchie in Mocha's name. I declined the help with the Vet bills and the whole thing was dropped. I kept thinking about his suggestion to donate funds to Dr. Ritchie and realized that people wouldn't do that on their own without a "reason".

So I hit upon the idea of a " toy for a drawing " that maybe 20 or 30 people would vie for...and the checks would all be made out to Dr. Ritchie and would go directly to the Psittacine Research Group.

AHN: What was your next step?

VW: Thing was, I needed to get in touch with Dr. Ritchie to make sure that he would send me the names of folks who sent him donations so that I could put them into the drawing.

Bobbi Brinker had posted something that led me to believe she knew how to get in touch with Dr. Ritchie. So I sent her a message asking her to please help me get in touch with him.

She very graciously explained that she hoped I'd understand, but Dr. Ritchie liked to keep his e-mail address private. However, if I'd send her the information that I wanted to get to him, she'd see that it got there. She worked on that idea with me, and alerted friends who had been looking for "deep pockets" to fund PDD research that here I was, telling folks, "Look...my bird died of PDD...it can happen to you, too."

Bobbi saw it on a grander scale than I did. The possibilities of getting a little money from a lot of people were endless. She helped me to see what I could do with the idea.

AHN: So you began to promote your idea?

VW: I'll never forget that first prize that came in just seconds after Bobbi told me to go ahead and post my message to the list. She forwarded a letter from Carol Highfill of Birds Ways that asked, "Do you think she could use a webpage hosted on BirdsnWays for a year? That's a $250 value." Then people started contacting me telling me they'd put up web pages for me announcing the drawing.

Within a few days I had to come up with a name for it... it was already getting much bigger than I'd anticipated. I looked at my new CAG Mychie, figured she could poop on the names, and the name became The Grey PoopOn Challenge.

We only were supposed to have the drawing for a month that first year, but due to popular demand, it was extended to two months. 83 prizes were given out that first year and $5005 was received by Dr. Ritchie.

AHN: What happened after the first Grey PoopOn Challenge?

VW: As soon as The Grey PoopOn Challenge was over, the 1997-1998 Campaign to Eradicate PDD took over. I didn't have anything to do with that. When Bobbi invited me to meet her at the Bird Clubs of Virginia Conference in March of 1998, I positively jumped at the chance to meet her. I didn't know what an Avian Conference was at that point. Didn't know there would be great speakers, just knew I had a chance to meet the lady who had helped to give my idea such a fantastic jump-start. So I jumped at the chance.

I was extremely impressed with the conference and positively struck by the generosity of the people there. The proceeds of the conference had always gone to help avian research.

A lot of folks asked me to continue the Challenge, so I took time off to plan the 1999 Grey PoopOn Challenge. I had a year and a half to work behind the scenes. In 1999, The Grey PoopOn Challenge lasted 6 months this time. During this time, TGPC was incorporated. I wanted to kick off The Grey PoopOn Challenge from the Bird Clubs of Virginia Conference. With Dick Ivy's blessing, I did. The clubs challenged each other and I could never have had a better start than I had between Bobbi, BCV, and Dick Ivy.

AHN: Who provided the drawing prizes?

VW: Oh my goodness the list is endless! And I didn't save all the information from that first challenge...but I'll try to list everyone to the best of my ability. Some folks stayed all the way through, some folks helped us to get a start and then had to do other things... (see Past Prize Donors list below).

I know that I've inadvertently left out some folks. There were more Vets that offered both prizes and/or Well Visits that weren't mentioned, folks that threw their prizes back into the prize pool or donated them to places such as The Oasis or other rescue organizations... Never could we have done what we did without their help.

AHN: Would you consider your fundraising successful?

VW: We wrote a check for $30,030 after the 1999 Challenge, and another one for $505 after the LIPS Annual Bird Show and Mart.

In 2000, before The Grey Poop-On Challenge was kicked off, a check for $10,000 went to Dr. Ritchie. This was the accumulation of everything received between the time after the 1999 Challenge (except for the LIPS Bird Mart) and before the one in 2000 started. After the Challenge for 2000 was over, we were able to send another check for $17,500.

In 2001 a check for $15,000 was sent before the Challenge started. This represented monies that were collected in 2000 after the Challenge and during the TGPConference on the Internet. $20,000 was sent after the Challenge ended.

All told, Dr. Ritchie's group received over $110,000 in a period of 4 years.

AHN: Why did you stop?

VW: I stopped. The Challenge didn't. When I got completely burned out, the time came for me to turn my attentions elsewhere. Tracy Bockenhauer of LARRA stepped forward and took over for 2002. And now I am on the Advisory Board of a fledgling non-profit called Avian Health Network as they set up their PDD research fundraising & educational activities. Monthly newsletters are going out, there's a list strictly for Volunteers for the effort, the AHN board is comprised of a lot of very knowledgeable people... I'm so very excited!


A lady by the name of Sharon Loper came from Arizona for that first Challenge. She wrote Valerie Wixen several years later,

"Thank you for what you have done. Our parrots have a better chance thanks to your dream and your commitment."

And here's what she wrote to her list,
Avian Safely Home?

Val will not bring back the Challenge, but perhaps there are some others out there who have the same passion for helping that she does. I wish you all well, hug and scritch your birds tonight and say a prayer...

Night all......
Shar, List mom

The Grey PoopOn Challenge: Past Prize Donors

"Oh my goodness the list is endless! And I didn't save all the information from that first challenge... but, I'll try to list everyone to the best of my ability. Some folks stayed all the way through, some folks helped us to get a start and then had to do other things. There were:

C & L Aviary, BirdsnWays, Tanglewood Toys, Theresa Jordan, Artist James R. Darnell, Artist Debra Garner of Classic Creaters, Wildlife Artist Ron Balaban, Alice Fournier, Artistic Expressions, Avian Antics, Avicultural Society of Tucson, Avitech, Beakers, Beaks & Tails Pet Sitting, Bird Fever in Indianapolis, Indiana, Bird Haven in Danbury Conn., Dr. Rosskopf, Dr. Woerpel, Birds by Donalee, Bird Talk Magazine, Birdy Boredom Busters (in Canada), Blue Sky Aviaries (in Canada), Bobbi Brinker, Breeders Blend, Bullshirts, Charlotte-Metrolina Cage Bird Society, Country Lane/Safe Haven, Conures List, Cuttlebone Plus, Peck 'N Coo, Doreen Gluck, Eric Ilasenko at Screenpics.com, Feathers and Fun, Feathered Gems Jewelry, For Fid's Sakes, Fowl Play, Hookbill Haven Aviary in Tennessee, Hookbill Haven Exotic Bird Rescue and Adoption in Alabama, Liz Horvath, Hornbeck's, Jim Berry, Joan's Exotic Birds in Schenectady New York, Jolley Feathers, Joni McDermott, Jungle Island Bird Toys, Jean Pattison, Kay Martin, Avian Publications, Barb Gramm, Beak Appetit, Bird-E-Toys, Bird's The Word, Birdworld (in the UK), Bob Mann (in the UK), BusyBeads, Roxanne Frost, Rob Harvey (in the UK), Dr. Rose A Fiskett VMD, ABVP, in Fairfax, VA, Treats 'n Eats (in the UK), Polly's Palm Oil, Charlie Gipson, Clay Feathers, Crazy Corn, Dohzy-Doats Farms, Elayne Brown, Elizabeth S. Kenney, Flightsuits, Dr. Gary Gallerstein DVM, Escondido, CA, Grey Feather Toy Creations, Jungle Toys, Kashmir Csaky, Kathie Touin, Kimmy's Kreations, Layne Dicker, Liz Evans, L-n-M Enterprises, Nancy Owens, Pamela Clark of Clark Exotics in Atascadero, CA, Parrot Haven, Parrot Play House Toys, Parrot Pleasures, ParrotGirl Prints, Parrots Magazine, Perma-Play Toys, Phoebe Linden, Quaker Parakeet Society, Renee at www.cockatoos.org, Roscoe's Roost, Safe Haven Parrot Trust (in the UK), Save the Wave, Shirley Jones, Smart Bird Toys, Smiles of Feathers, The Society for the Conservation of Aviculture (in the UK), Steve and Wendy's Parrot Products, Sue from Bird Brains, Tani Robar, Taylormade Toyz, Terese Hartjoy, Thee Birdie Bordello, WeeBToys, Windi Downey, Kaytee, Lafeber, Liz Ulmer, Lynn Budz, M.J. "White Bear" Correll, MollyLee, Nancy Stannard, Out On A Limb, Pepper of the Amazing Amazons, Perma-Play Products, PetSmart Stores, Planned Parrothood, Shady Pines Aviary, Sharon Loper-Bloch, Sterling Home Products in NJ, Su Egan, Sybille Faye, Talking Green Parrot Aviary, Terry Cline, TFBnet at www.tfb.com, The Happy Parrot, The Parrot Boutique, Weavings by Just Nana, WeeBToys, West Valley Bird Society, Ziggybeth, Maggie Buchanan, Roscoe's Roost, Dr. Christine Kolmstetter in NV, Gifts for the Pet Lover, Crazy 4 Birdz, Nancy Stannard, Dr. Gregory Rich DVM, ABVP in Louisiana, Dr. Sam Vaughn DVM, ABVP in Kentucky, Susan Friedman PhD, Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins DVM, ABVP in San Diego CA, Dr. Lauren Powers DVM, ABVP in Chapel Hill NC, Dr. Vanessa Rolfe DVM in Salem, VA , Birds in Glass, Birds Just Wanna Have Fun, Catherine Carlton, Carolyn Swicegood, Chopper's Toys, Chubby Bird, Dee Hayston, Adrienne Lapp, Luvtiels Aviary, Mango Pet Inc, Alicia McWatters, Punkin's Plaza, Parrot Play Center, Ken Ross, Dr. Kristine A. Smith DVM, Steel Parrot Creations, Dr. RuthAnn MacQueen DVM, Dr. John Mann DVM, Dr. Alvin Atlas DVM, Dr. Christine Sellers DVM, Dr. Don J. Harris DVM, Dr. Eric Westheimer DVM, Dr. Heidi L. Hoefer DVM ABVP, Dr. Jody Milburn DVM, Dr. Ken Kaucic DVM, Dr. Lorin Lawrence DVM, Dr. Luiz Cruz DVM, Drr. Marc H. Kramer DVM, Dr. Michael Bonda DVM, Dr. Michael LoSasso DVM, Dr. Michael S. Pagliaro DVM, Dr. Natalie Antinoff DVM, ABVP, Dr. Suzanne V. Topor DVM, ABVP, Dr. Tiffany Margolin DVM, Dr. Todd Wolfe DVM, Dr. Valerie L. Campbell DVM...

...and I know that I've inadvertently left out some folks... Never could we have done what we did without their help." -VW

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