TLC Community Center recreates fundraiser event after animal abuse complaints

The TLC Community Center’s annual “Donkeyball” fundraiser has undergone a complete redesign, following complaints from certain residents about potential animal abuse.

Director Angie Odom said she heard about the complaints from a media outlet in Bristol who asked her about her opinion on the complaints they had received.

“They said a couple of people had expressed concern about possible animal abuse of the donkeys,” Odom said. “They had told them they were planning to get in contact with PETA.”

Donkeyball was one of the first fundraisers the center hosts during the year, in which paying participants would play basketball on the backs of donkeys.

Odom said the event was popular among the center’s supporters, and they typically collected between $3,500 and $4,000 a year off this event alone. Now, three days before they scheduled it, the center had to come up with a completely different fundraiser to compensate.

The result is just as out-of-the-box as donkeyball.

“We are going to have six to eight men dress as babies,” she said. “We are going to vote on the cutest baby in town.”

In this event, $1 donated equals one vote. The “babies” will be men from various positions in the community, including firemen, pastors and business owners.

She said each of the candidates will receive a basic outfit to wear, and it will be their job to customize the attire to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

That will not be the only event the center will put on, however.

“We will be holding a silent auction after that,” Odom said. “We have been going to various businesses all over asking for support. We have restaurants pitching in as well as businesses.”

One business in particular, Winchester Quality Flooring, is donating an entire room’s worth of flooring in the auction.

The center will also be selling T-shirts in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday this week, with the words “A person is a person, no matter how small.”

She said the stress of reorganizing a fundraiser that would have been on its third or fourth year was discouraging.

“We put in all that work,” Odom said. “We did not want to give in. We are trying to help people.”

After mulling over the complaints, however, Odom said she decided to pick her battles, and this would not be one of them.

“If this were about our Biblical standards, then yes, I would be fighting it,” Odom said. “But this is not one of those.”

Despite the setback, she said the community’s support has uplifted their spirits.

“People do not hesitate to donate when we ask them,” she said. “Today, I feel encouraged.”

Those interested in donating items for the auction or towards the “babies” can do so by stopping by the center at 145 Judge Don Lewis Blvd. The event will begin at the center on Friday, starting at 7 p.m.

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