Gala evening helps to raise support for The Big Cat Sanctuary’s most ambitious project to date – Big Cats in Crisis – a mission to relocate five lions from Ukraine.

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The MMM team with Rasa, left. Pic: © David Pearce/

A night of glitz and glamour was enjoyed at Champneys’ Eastwell Manor near Ashford in aid of raising funds for The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden – a centre dedicated to the conservation of wild cats, with the objectives of welfare, breeding, education and conservation.

The gala ball on 14 June was an evening filled with elegance and excitement, specifically dedicated to supporting The Big Cat Sanctuary’s most ambitious project to date – the ‘Big Cats in Crisis’ campaign. 

More than 100 guests dressed in their finest black-tie attire gathered for this cause close to their hearts – a noble mission to relocate five African lions from Kyiv, Ukraine, to their new safe haven at the sanctuary in Smarden. 

These majestic creatures, victims of conflict and instability, are in desperate need of a secure and nurturing environment and the sanctuary’s initiative is focused on providing these lions with the care and protection they deserve.

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Pic: © David Pearce/

Eastwell Manor provided a stunning backdrop for this glamorous evening, proudly supported by MMM Media and Furlonger Specialist Cars. The venue sparkled with opulent decorations, setting the stage for an unforgettable night. 

Guests enjoyed a gourmet dinner, live music and a silent auction, all contributing to the festive and philanthropic atmosphere. The auction featured an array of exclusive items and experiences with proceeds going directly to the Big Cats in Crisis project.

The highlight of the evening was a moving presentation about the lions’ plight and the Sanctuary’s efforts to rescue them. Attendees were visibly moved by the stories of these magnificent animals and the urgent need for their relocation. The presentation underscored the critical importance of the Sanctuary’s work and galvanised further support from the attendees.

Throughout the night, the spirit of generosity was palpable. Donations poured in, reflecting the community’s commitment to animal welfare and conservation. By the end of the evening £12,600 was raised, bringing The Big Cat Sanctuary closer to achieving their goal of providing a new home for the lions.

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The Big Cat Sanctuary is especially close to MMM Media Publisher Rasa Dregva’s heart. On the fundraising committee for the sanctuary, she has been actively involved with the charity, including taking part in a trip to Kenya to get hands-on at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which the sanctuary works with to see all they do to protect wildlife and their environment. As a result, she has always been keen to do her bit in furthering the cause and ensuring it can continue its vital work.

Rasa said: “It would be easy to feel helpless over the plight of the animals and people, to think they are too far away, that they are not important, to fail to see their relevance. But they are as much deserving of finding a safe and secure home on the planet as we are.

“At the ball we sat in amazing surroundings with good company and enjoyed a delicious meal, then returned to comfortable homes afterwards while thousands of miles away the magnificent creatures we share this planet with are fighting not just for their very survival, but the survival of their species.

“We should be thankful the likes of The Big Cat Sanctuary are helping them. Only by pulling together can their future be secured.”

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Lynn Whitnall, Trustee at The Big Cat Sanctuary said: “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who contributed to or attended our annual gala ball, especially MMM and Eastwell Manor. This year’s event supported our Big Cats in Crisis campaign, rescuing five lions from war-torn Ukraine. 

“The money raised will fund a brand new specialised rescue facility which will be tailored to provide the necessary care for these and many more rescued big cats in the future.”

James McComas, General Manager at Eastwell Manor said: “Supporting the Big Cats in Crisis appeal is crucial for the future of these magnificent creatures. At Eastwell Manor we believe in the preservation and protection of big cats, and your contributions can make a significant difference. Let’s ensure these animals receive the care they deserve.” 

The fundraising ball at Eastwell Manor was more than just an elegant evening – it was a
powerful demonstration of compassion and collective effort. Thanks to the support and generosity of those in attendance, the five lions from Kyiv are one step closer to finding safety and care at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden.

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