Paul Long uses humor, along with life and work experiences, to connect with people.

Melissa Reed, executive director of Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, 3173 Highway K-68, was looking for a different kind of emcee for the upcoming Bow Meow Benefit Dinner & Auction.

“Two-and-a-half years ago, we targeted this event to be a really fun event for the community,” Reed said. “[Long and I] met and it was an instant connection. We had a lot the same principles and thoughts. He is so inspiring. His energy is contagious. It was a perfect fit for us.”

Long will emcee the 11th annual benefit event 6 p.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Parish, 426 S. Cedar St., Ottawa.

“It is our main fundraiser of the year,” Reed said. “Our goal this year is to raise $60,000. All that money goes back to support the homeless animals in our community through various programs we have. We are looking to do a different kind of dinner and auction where it is more an interaction style, really engaging our guests. For us, it is all about the guest experience and having fun while supporting the homeless animals.”

Long’s philosophy is to make a difference in people’s lives.

“I never shy away from any opportunity to help potentially move someone forward in their day, that means I connected emotionally or if I help them get out of a rut they’re in. It is about driving and provoking thought, hopefully have something different they can incorporate in their lives.”

Long said the Prairie Paws attendees are kind-hearted and have their hearts set on helping something bigger than themselves.

“I would say that we are connected with the right people, and ultimately, it will be a fantastic time,” he said.

F.U.N. PHILOSOPHY

Long incorporates the acronym F.U.N. into his speeches and life. His website gave the following explanation:

Foundation: The first step in maximizing workplace or personal fulfillment, is identifying your guiding principles, or what he calls foundation.

Understanding: Your family, friends, coworkers, and customer’s perspective will improve the probability of success in creating all outcomes.

Next Steps: Next steps include identifying any personal or organizational gaps and the “Fundamism” principles that will help minimize them.

Long said the philosophy is based on life experiences as well as the trials and tribulations of being a longtime Kansas City Royals fan.

“I made it my life mantra to help folks understand that it is not always the environment that drives our emotions,” Long said. “We have the ability to create the emotion that we want to feel and allow that to help shape our environment.

“I am really driven. Oftentimes we don’t believe the impact we have on others. One thing I am driven on more than anything else is leaving a mark and hoping that I inspire folks to connect with life differently.”

One way he connects is through humor.

“My life is a joke,” he said. “I incorporate a lot of comedy. One element of me personally, my FUN approach is to connect with people through humor, lightheartedness and humility. I crack a lot of jokes on myself.”

ANIMAL LOVER

Long will fit in with the Prairie Paws crowd with his love for animals. In the past, he dressed in a wrestling singlet with a big cat on the front.

“There is an obvious connection with the cat singlet thing, however, that stemmed from my love for cats,” Long said. “I travel a lot for work, as a result, dogs were always somewhat of a challenge for me to own. I love just about every animal. Cats are a lot less needy. My whole life I have had cats. Every cat I have ever had basically [acted like] a dog. It followed me around the moment I got in. It was always super-loving and cuddly. I have a deep affection in my heart. When you think about fun and fundamentals — a lot what I talk about is gravitating towards the things that give you strength. When you are dealing with a struggle oftentimes a connection with — not just an individual — but sometimes an animal, that is not going to respond or not going to tell you that you are crazy in your thoughts, just be there for you. It means a lot. I understand what animals mean to everybody.”

He became acquainted with Prairie Paws through his work with the Great Plains SPCA in Kansas City, Missouri. He was contacted about a photo shoot, holding cats and dogs in his cat singlet, for Prairie Paws.

MEMORIES

Ottawa feels like home to Long, who graduated from Osawatomie High School in 1999. Long’s family used to shop in Ottawa during his teen years.

“Ottawa was the big city we drove to every now and again,” Long said. “We did all of our school shopping in Ottawa.”

While in high school, his love for basketball grew. Long admitted he was not a very good player, but had his greatest moment of his basketball career in Ottawa.

He played in an Ottawa summer league with his Osawatomie friends during high school. He recanted about throwing a pass from the opposite free-throw line to one of his friends running the lane for an alley-oop.

“A three-quarter court pass he caught it in stride,” Long said. “My most memorable basketball moment in my life happened right there in the Ottawa summer league.”