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April 30, 2013

Friends work together to help animals

13th annual Dog Walk-A-Thon raises funds for Humane Society

ANDERSON, Ind. — Amy Heard and Jayna Jones are best friends. Part of the cement in their close relationship is a shared love for animals, and the two found a way to make a difference in what’s so dear to their hearts. For 13 years, the pair has organized Anderson’s Dog Walk-a-Thon to benefit the Madison County Humane Society, set for May 4 this year.

“I have always been a big animal lover,” said Heard. “All my pets are rescues.” Right now, Heard’s animal crew includes her dog, Star, and four cats, Pumpkin, Sassy, Lucky and Tommy. “They’re all rescued with different stories and different places.”

“I’ve had pets since I can remember,” said Jones. Her cat, Maddie, will be 17 this year, originally recovered as an abandoned kitten from the side of a road. Over the years, the pair have participated together in events with their pets.

“We’ve done costume contests,” said Jones. Their animals have also been to pet blessings. Jones laughingly recalls her pet parrot talking throughout one such event. They’ve also traveled with their pets, at one time headed to Florida with no fewer than six animals along for the ride. “We’ve always toted our animals around.”

Heard had the idea for the Dog Walk-a-Thon in 2000, after walking in a March of Dimes fundraiser. She approached Sharon Fannin, who was serving on the board of the MCHS.

“We started the walk as a way to help the then struggling Humane Society raise money,” said Heard. “The first week in May is Be Kind To Animals week, so we scheduled the walk around that. What better way to celebrate than to spend time walking your dog while raising money for homeless pets.”

“The first walkathon was a huge success in our eyes because we made much needed money, got permanent homes for some very deserving dogs and lots of people and their pets had a good time and got a little exercise,” said Fannin.

Last year, the event drew 32 walkers and raised $3,886 to help out the Madison County animals.

“It’s huge. We run totally on donations and fundraisers,” said Susie Schieve, MCHS executive director. The nonprofit receives no government funding. “We’re a totally private organization.” Even the board and officers are volunteers.

Incorporated in 1973, the MCHS is a no-kill facility. Animals that come in remain there until they are adopted. Last year, they took in 494 cats and dogs, and adopted out 475. Volunteers and a small staff accomplished that on a budget of $246,839. On any given day, there’s an average of about 120 animals being sheltered.

Schieve is deeply appreciative of efforts like the Walk-A-Thon, and the generosity of participants.

Heard and Jones use their own money to print materials and organize the event. They also rely on donations from local businesses, including snacks donated by Nestlé and Speck’s Pet Supply. Alexandria Animal Hospital is supplying a basket of pet goodies to be raffled. All the money raised through the walkathon goes directly to MCHS.

This year, there will be an opportunity for your dog to create a paw print on canvas using safe, washable paint. You can take the artwork home for $5. Others purchase signs in memories of their pets. The signs are posted along the trail during the walk. Walkers will receive T-shirts, some of which are also available for purchase.

“It’s a way to help them. They survive on donations,” said Heard of the Humane Society.

“We want to help animals — we can’t take them all in ourselves, said Jones. “It’s fun. We enjoy it. Rain or shine, we’ll be out here.”

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