(OCEAN CITY, Md.) - Grab your walking shoes! This weekend marks the 18th Annual Boardwalkin' for Pets, an annual fundraiser supporting the homeless dogs and cats of the Worcester County Humane Society.
"It's just a really nice time with lots and lots of dogs on the boardwalk," said Heather Bahrami, chairman of Boardwalkin' for Pets. "Last year, we had somewhere close to 300 [participants]."
To kick off the fun, a dinner and silent auction will be held on Friday, April 21 at Adolfo's Italian Restaurant located on 13th Street in Ocean City. Those who are interested in attending can purchase tickets in advance for $25 online, at the shelter or at Adolfo's restaurant. Tickets will also be available at the door Friday evening for $30.
However, the main event will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, April 22 when pets and their owners come together for the big walk. Registration will begin Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Boardwalk inlet, with the walk starting at 9 a.m.
It's bound to be a doggone good time because when it comes to Boardwalkin' for Pets, you just never know what kind of pet you'll run into.
"I've encouraged a friend that has a pig to bring the pig in a wheelbarrow, I even know someone that takes a chicken in a stroller," laughed Bahrami. "I'm encouraging some reptiles or something different, but it's got to be able to be carried down the boardwalk and not be illegal out here on the boardwalk."
Bahrami says Boardwalkin' for Pets is Worcester County Humane Society's largest fundraiser of the year. All money raised will go towards vet and medical expenses, as well as other important items such as food, cat litter and cleaning supplies.
"Last year, we raised more than $35,000," said Bahrami. "It's just really important to us to keep going and help as many as we can. We never want to have to turn anyone away because we can't help them."
Shelter Manager Jessica Summers agrees. She says the Worcester County Humane Society, which is a private, non-profit organization, must rely on fundraisers and donations to stay open.
"The humane society would definitely not be able to support itself without events like this," said Summers. "Donations is the only way that we stay open."
Summers says not only will the money raised help to pay off vet bills and purchase supplies, but it will also help pay for a new spay and neuter clinic.
"We're kind of always fighting off debt, so this will get us ahead and get us into summer and be able to take in more cats and dogs and get everybody spayed and neutered," said Summers.
For those who don't own a pet but would still like to participate, Bahrami says folks have the option to "adopt" a shelter dog for the event.
"We have people come in, pick them up the morning of the walk. They're responsible for getting the dog to the boardwalk, walking the dog as much as they'd like. We try to have an 'adopt me' collar on just to make sure that people know he's up for adoption," explained Bahrami.
If you'd like to adopt a shelter dog for the event, arrangements can be made in advance by calling the shelter at 410-213-0146. Bahrami says there is no deadline to make arrangements. Anyone who chooses to adopt a dog last minute can stop by the shelter Saturday morning before the walk.
But that's not all! Pet owners are invited to participate in the "cutest cat" contest. Just bring a picture of your cat to the walk with your contact information written on the back. Photos won't be returned, so make sure you keep a copy for yourself. A special prize basket will be awarded to the "cutest cat" at the end of the walk. Prizes will also be awarded to the highest pledge earners (top individual and team), as well as the winners of the largest and smallest dog, best-dressed dog and best dog trick contests.
For more information or to pre-register for the walk, visit the event website at www.worcestercountyhumanesociety.org/boardwalkin-for-pet.