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Field of feel-good: Sensorio Gives Back nights raise funds for local causes

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If you haven't yet made it out to the Sensorio Field of Light and the more recently installed Light Towers in Paso Robles, or perhaps you're looking for a reason to make a second visit, Sensorio Gives Back might be the perfect occasion.

A GOOD CAUSE If you head to the Sensorio Field of Light (seen in the background) and Light Towers (in the foreground) on Dec. 12, your admission price will also be supporting two local organizations doing good in the community. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SENSORIO
  • Photo Courtesy Of Sensorio
  • A GOOD CAUSE If you head to the Sensorio Field of Light (seen in the background) and Light Towers (in the foreground) on Dec. 12, your admission price will also be supporting two local organizations doing good in the community.

One night a month, locals can enjoy artist Bruce Munro's entrancing light field and light-filled wine bottle towers all while feeling good about giving back to the community. Sensorio Gives Back selects two nonprofits, foundations, or organizations each month that are making positive change in the community to receive a portion of their profits from a designated night.

Ken and Bobbi Hunter, the Paso locals who own the property where Sensorio is exhibited, first saw Munro's Field of Light on display in Australia.

"They were very much taken with what they saw," Sensorio Executive Director Paul Haught said.

After purchasing some land in Paso Robles, the Hunters were trying to figure out what to do with the property.

"Just because it's such beautiful, rolling hills, the thought was they would contact Bruce Munro because they had seen his work and see if he was interested," Haught said. "The rest is history."

The Hunters were also the driving force behind Sensorio Gives Back.

"We search out foundations that are doing great work, whether it's the Foodbank or folks working with children who are abused—we've chosen a number of different foundations, and it's just been a great thing," Haught said. "The foundations that we give to are doing good work, they're really appreciative, and it just goes a long way in helping them do their work."

Most recently on Nov. 21, the special fundraising event benefited the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Next up on Dec. 12, Sensorio Gives Back will benefit Transitions-Mental Health Association and NatureTrack.

"Basically it's $10 from every ticket that is sold goes to each foundation, so $20 in total goes out for every ticket sold," Haught said. "We will cut them a check, payable to them, and present it to them, and they then determine [how to spend it]. Because they're the experts in what they do, how to best do it."

Typically, the amount raised for each foundation runs in the range of $9,000, Haught said. Sensorio Gives Back nights tend to be popular because people are motivated by the opportunity to give back.

Santa Barbara County Foodbank Senior Communication Manager Judith Smith-Meyer said being part of Sensorio Gives Back helps them feed thousands of families during the holidays.

"They supported us last year as well. It was the same time last year," Smith-Meyer said. "We appreciate that the Sensorio team thinks about the people in Santa Barbara County that are facing things at the holidays that many of us are not facing, ... turning that magic on the rolling hills into a holiday meal on the table of someone who cannot afford to have one."

Smith-Meyer added that those who couldn't make it up to Sensorio on Nov. 21 but still want to support the Foodbank can head to foodbanksbc.org/givehealth to have their donation doubled thanks to the John C. Mithun Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Sensorio Executive Director Haught said his team is proud to support local organizations, especially after the challenges of the past year and a half.

"I think it's something that we all feel is important here, and I think the staff is all really proud of the fact that Ken and Bobbi have allowed this to continue, even through the COVID times."

Fast fact

• The Justin Vineyards & Winery Community Grants program announced that the 2021-22 community grant cycle is now open, with $250,000 available in grants to impact the local community, of which $50,000 will be specifically reserved for neighborhood schools. Director of Grower and Community Relations Molly Scott said this will be Justin's biggest grant season to date. "We're humbled by the quality of applications we receive, and every year, grant recipients are selected by a committee of Justin employees," Scott said in a statement. She added, "Teachers don't always have the supplies they need to help students reach their full potential, and we want to help as many children as possible through Justin School Grants." Applications will be accepted until Nov. 30. For more information about eligibility requirements and to submit an application, visit justinwinegrants.com or email communitygrants@justinwine.com. Δ

Reach Staff Writer Malea Martin at mmartin@newtimesslo.com.

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