Dancing Bearfoot and The Star Throwers, sounds like a marquee for a couple of bands doesn’t it? This is the one blog post that may not be of interest to many people but it’s a story I really want to share. How does one small cabin in the Smoky Mountains with a passion for helping injured and orphaned black bears go on to gain the attention of a worldwide community, humanitarian, ecological organization such as The Star Throwers?
The first question to ask is why are we dedicated to helping black bears to begin with, where did that come from? The truth is my wife and I have a soft spot for animal causes. She used to joke that whenever those Melissa Etheridge commercials came on TV for the ASPCA with the sad dogs…”there goes another $19.00”. We had four rescue dogs living in our house at one time, the tumbleweeds of dog hair when you opened the doors and windows was laughable. If we had one of those robotic vacuums it would have come out of its dock traveled three feet said “oh heck no” and gone park itself back in the dock. ASPCA, Rover Rescue, PAWS Chicago, Midwest Beagle Rescue, I could go on and on with the checks we’ve written to these worthy organizations.
So why black bears? A few years ago, I was reading a book called “Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” by Kim DeLozier. It’s a collection of short stories about his experiences as a ranger in the Smokies. It was a great book to read on an airplane, so it became my constant travel companion. The chapter about the skunk roundup in Cades Cove will leaving you in tears laughing. In the book the author points out that young bears that were injured or orphaned used to be euthanized by the rangers as it was more humane then letting them suffer or starve to death.
A group of dedicated volunteers decided to form Appalachian Black Bear Rehabilitation & Release Center, Inc. to help the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park care for the orphaned cubs of the Smokies. The very first bear, “Zero”, arrived on July 8, 1996 and was released on September 20, 1996. So far over 260 black bear cubs and yearlings have been assisted by the facility.
So how did we get involved? I’ve always admired companies that have a giving nature and try to make the world a better place, Patagonia Clothing and Tom’s Shoes are two great examples. My wife and I decided early on that we would share part of our income from Dancing Bearfoot with a worthwhile organization in the Smoky Mountains area. Since we had a love for animals, the National Park and its wildlife, supporting Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) was a perfect fit. We started donating a portion from every guest stay to ABR as well as donating several vacation packages annually to the organization to be used for fundraising purposes.
Who or what are The Star Throwers and how did we become involved with them? One of the main forces behind The Star Throwers is a gentleman named Matt Landau. If you’re in the vacation rental business you know Matt Landau as one of the giants in the industry. Matt is a speaker, author, hosts a show called “A Sense of Place” on YouTube, he travels the world searching out and writing about the vacation rental business. Think if him as the Guy Fieri of vacation rentals. Matt has a fleet of luxury vacation rentals in the historic district of Casco Viejo, Panama. Matt started Esperanza Social Venture Club who’s goal is to make their community safer and more resilient by demobilizing street gangs and integrating their members into formal society and their territories into the broader community.
Matt’s collaborator is Bob Garner, again a well-respected vacation rental operator of Casal dei Fichi which is a set of 6 eco-friendly apartments in Le Marche, Italy. Bob has a deep love for the environment. Through Bob’s collaboration with Treedom, local restaurants and his guests, Bob is planting trees to combat climate change.
The Star Throwers members are a group of vacation rental professionals who want to change the status quo by directly solving our community problems (aka. Throwing Stars). The Star Throwers have aligned themselves with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) These 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are universal, aiming to tackle global poverty, inequality and climate change.
In reading the story below, we remind ourselves that every vacation rental professional has the capacity to change his or her corner of the world.
The Star Throwers program was inspired by The Starthrower by Loren Eiseley.
While walking along a beach after a storm, an elderly gentleman saw a boy in the distance bending down, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one back into the sea.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish back into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the boy replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the man commented, “But do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The boy listened politely as he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one,” he said.
How did Dancing Bearfoot and The Star Throwers come to be? What started out as a simple comment about a post on Matt’s weekly blog turned into several emails simply discussing our unique approach to the rental business in the Smoky Mountains. During one of those exchanges I brought up our project with Appalachian Bear Rescue and we discussed The Star Throwers. Next thing you know it’s 40 emails, Skype calls and drafting documents and redrafting those documents and finally certification.
There are 12 Certified Star Throwers initiatives worldwide in places like; France, Budapest, Thailand, Italy and Panama. There are 7 in the United States and we are number seven and the only property in Tennessee with this honor. We’re so very proud of this accomplishment and recognition. Our hope is that within a few years there will be hundreds of rental properties making a difference in the world, each one of us throwing our own starfish back into the sea.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to learn more about our project please visit us at Dancing Bearfoot.com.