Unleashing Hope and Making a Difference: Winston Project Gala

Jul 3, 2023 | Animal Rescue

A Night of Love and Purpose at the Winston Project Gala

As a dog portrait photographer passionate about capturing the unique essence and bond of your furry companions, I’m always looking for opportunities to give back to the canine community. When I connected with Cindy to discuss photographing the inaugural Winston Project Gala, held at the picturesque Carlsbad Windmill by Wedgewood Weddings, I knew I had to be involved somehow! The fundraiser was a success, dedicated to supporting dog rescue efforts, and I was thrilled to be a part of it and be in a room full of many like-minded individuals.

Black and white of guests at the innaugural Winston Project Gala

A Heartfelt Beginning

Cindy Aronstam, the founder of Winston Project, welcomed guests with a beaming smile and a heartwarming story of love, loss, and resilience. It began in 2018 when Cindy, a full-time realtor made the bold choice to rebrand her business around her love of dogs by creating The Bulldog Realtor and donating a portion of her earnings from each home sold. The tragic loss of her beloved English Bulldog, Winston, in 2019 left her feeling lost as she describes, “Losing him almost destroyed me and I wanted to make an impact to help those going through the grieving process as well as helping dogs who were suffering.”.

From Documentary Premiere to Non-Profit

Her mission began with the creation of a powerful mini-documentary titled “The Winston Project.” In 2022, the documentary premiered, and the proceeds were donated to two animal rescues, raising nearly $7,000. This success sparked the idea of establishing Winston Project as an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Just six months after filing the paperwork with the IRS, Winston Project was born, ready to serve as the fundraising arm for rescue groups.

A Lifeline for Dogs in Need

With the goal of supporting rescue groups and shelters, Winston Project aims to alleviate the burden on these organizations by raising vital funds. Rescue groups tirelessly work to save dogs from neglect and abuse, but their time and resources are often stretched thin. Winston Project serves as a lifeline, providing grants to local rescue groups through carefully vetted grant requests. These funds directly impact the lives of dogs in need, offering them a second chance at a happy and healthy life.

A low angle view of a red carpet leading guests into a grand ballroom at the Carlsbad Windmill Guests walking down an aisle with a red carpet entering into a grand ballroom at the Carlsbad Windmill An artistic photo of over 30 champagne fill glasses sit on a table with a black tablecloth for guests to enjoy.

A Night of Celebration and Giving

As the gala unfolded, the atmosphere was charged with excitement, conversation, and laughter as the DJ filled the air with great music adding to the vibrant ambiance of the night. Throughout all the mingling all while enjoying refreshments at the open bar, the 360 photo booth was a fun twist in creating an instant video (imagine being on the red carpet getting your photograph taken). With a line the entire night, the pet caricature artist was a highlight for all, capturing the personality of the attendees’ pets with his incredible artistry and by looking only at a cell phone picture!

A pet caricature artists drawinga poodle mix in an artistic style in a black and white photograph Pet caricature art drawing a brown and white doodle from a cell phone photo Pet caricature art drawing two english bulldogs from a picture

After the delicious dinner and the acknowledgments of the sponsors, one of the most touching moments of the night came with the screening of a heartfelt video. It showcased the reality of all the animals needing assistance and the incredible people dedicating their lives to these creatures reinforcing the purpose behind the gala. The shared empathy and passion in the room were palpable. Not only did the guests feel the impact of that moment, but Cindy also shared with me her favorite moment of the gala, “everyone’s reaction to the video was both humbling and heartwarming. Definitely a stand-out moment for me.”. With the lights still dim, it was time to turn up the music. Many joined on the dance floor singing along to classics and top hits while others put their last-minute raffle tickets into the thirteen gift baskets of choice, generously donated by numerous businesses and supporters. To cap the night off, a winner from each gift basket was drawn and announced. Lots of cheers and excitement were heard as each winner walked up to collect their prize which included gifts such as Padres tickets, Disney theme park tickets, many dog-related items, and so much more.

Two women on a pedestal posin as a 360 degree camera moves around them to create an instant video People dancing with their hands up, glasses raised, at a gala fundraiser in Carlsbad A black and white photo of multiple guests dressed in red carpet attire mingling at a fundraising event

Unveiling Success: Over $28,000 Raised

The first-ever gala held by Winston Project was an incredible success, raising over $28,000 for the cause. This astounding amount demonstrates the dedication and generosity of the gala’s attendees and supporters. With each dollar raised, Winston Project moves closer to its mission of providing grants to non-profit animal groups, funding life-saving treatments, spay/neuter programs, and educational initiatives.

A Village United for a Purpose

Cindy took a moment to express her heartfelt gratitude to the individuals who made the gala possible. From the Board of Directors and volunteers to the generous sponsors, donors, and contributors, their collective effort created a night filled with love and compassion. Special recognition was given to Jim, Cindy’s significant other, who played an integral role in designing the marketing materials, including the gala’s logo.

A group of woman and men on a red carpet smiling at the camera Man in black tuxedo and woman in black dress pose together for a picture on a red carpet with a white background featuring sponsors A group of men and women dressed in red carpet apparel smiling at the camera at the Winston Project Gala.

Looking Forward: Grant Recipients and Making a Lasting Impact

As Winston Project moves forward, their focus turns to announcing the grant recipients before the year’s end. These deserving organizations will receive the much-needed support to continue their tireless work in rescuing and caring for dogs. By addressing neglect and abuse, providing life-saving treatments, and promoting responsible pet ownership, Winston Project strives to create a lasting impact on the lives of dogs and their human companions.

A Night of Love, Purpose, and Community

The Winston Project Gala at the Carlsbad Windmill was an evening that touched hearts and brought dog lovers together in support of a remarkable cause raising over $28,000 for Winston Project’s mission. With each dollar raised, the project moves closer to making a significant impact on the lives of dogs in need. Let us remember this night as a testament to the unwavering dedication and compassion of the dog-loving community, coming together to create a brighter future for our furry companions. If you’re just learning about Winston Project and their vital work in dog rescue, visit their website at winstonproject.org or follow their Instagram account @winstonproject to stay updated on their mission and future events. Dear dog lovers, let us join forces and support organizations like the Winston Project in their noble mission. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of dogs who deserve a second chance at happiness. Spread the word, share the love, and let’s continue to unleash hope, one dog at a time. 

Capturing the Love: Your Pet Photography Partner

As a dog portrait photographer based in San Diego, I was honored to be a part of the Winston Project Gala documenting the candid moments of connection and the love of animals. If your dog is your everything, I invite you to learn more about why you should hire a dog photographer. 


  Click here to see ALL the photos from the Gala!