These Paws were Made for Walking
Animal Humane Society Hosts Walk for Animals
Cindy Wrezca’s first Walk for Animals was certainly memorable. She was sitting on a curb, chatting with friends, and waiting for the event to start, when her friend’s Scottish terrier walked up, and peed on her leg. So, she did the Walk with just one sock. Yet, the incident hasn’t stopped her from going to five Walks in the past seven years.
A Minnetonka resident, and owner of an Iowa domestic longhaired cat, Wrezca always has been an animal lover. But it wasn’t until she moved from St. Cloud to the Cities in 2002 that she learned of the Walk.
Wrezca says, “I thought it would be a good place to meet other people that also have the same care for animals and the desire to help them.”
Her love for animals started as a young kid, when Wrezca grew up with multiple pets—she always had at least two cats and one dog in her life all the way through high school. When she went to St. Cloud State University, she was without a pet. That changed as soon as she graduated. She met and adopted her cat, Matty. Although she knows Matty would not enjoy being leashed for the Walk, Wrezca continues to participate to support other kitties and animals.
Wrezca explains, “The Walk for Animals is one of the most organized fundraising events in the Twin Cities area, and it’s sponsored by so many local corporate sponsors and local volunteers. It’s a great way to show your community support for our four-legged friends and other animals that need the help.”
For 36 years, the annual Animal Humane Society (AHS) Walk for Animals has united humans and animals. This year’s event, on May 1, is the nation’s largest human/pet walk, according to AHS spokesperson Carrie Libera.
As Libera notes, “The walk was created as a way for the community to get more involved in our work, and for people to support the animals that need their help, and celebrate the animals in their own lives.”
Getting under way at 10 AM, the Walk starts at the AHS Golden Valley location, goes through Theodore Wirth Park, turns around, and heads back to the AHS. The route is approximately five miles, but volunteers can turn around at any point.
With five locations—Buffalo, Coon Rapids, Golden Valley, St. Paul, and Woodbury—AHS has been a strong advocate for animals in Minnesota.
Libera relates, “Although we are always seeking stronger legislation to protect the rights of animals in Minnesota, we are fortunate to live in a community where people love and value animals, and really support our mission. The Twin Cities is a leader in leash laws and spaying/neutering for dogs. If we could all work harder on making sure cats receive that same attention, we could decrease cat overpopulation, which is a crucial problem in Minnesota and the country.”
Every year, AHS takes in nearly 35,000 homeless and neglected domestic animals. Through the Walk, it hopes to raise $1.1 million to aid them. AHS is a private nonprofit organization that does not receive federal, state, or governmental funding, but relies solely on private donations, merchandise sales, and adoption fees. Private donations make up 70 percent of the AHS operating budget.
Donations—not only money, but also items—go toward helping animals live more fulfilling lives. The organization’s website even has a wish list of items to donate: bath towels, batteries, cat toys, dog brushes, fleece, food bowls, fresh veggies, laundry soap, litter boxes, newspapers, and paper towels—to name a few.
But the Walk isn’t just about donations. It’s about building a community.
This year’s Walk offers family activities, pet contests, merchandise, food vendors, and community personalities. Famous pet lovers on hand include Fox 9’s Jeff Passolt, Robyne Robinson, Ian Leonard, Alix Kendall, Keith Marler, Tom Butler, Juli Jay, and M.A. Rosko; and Cities 97’s Brian Oake, BT, and Lee Valsvik.
Many of the activities are targeted toward dogs, such as The Bone Zone and Rover Rally Doggy Obstacle Course, but the Walk is open to other animals as well. Previous events have seen birds, cats, donkeys, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, horses, pigs, and rabbits.
Libera remarks, “You would think with all those animals together in one location, it’d be a zoo—but it’s not. It’s like the animals know this is their day, so they are on their best behavior! It’s just a ton of fun, and something really special to be a part of.”
The support animals get at the Walk doesn’t end once volunteers finish their five miles. The needs of animals are always there.
To find out more ways to contribute to AHS, visit www.animalhumanesociety.org.