Santa Clarita’s parks, paseos and trails are full of residents and their four-footed companions, taking a healthy stroll or an invigorating run in the great outdoors.
On October 22, organizers hope those animal lovers will be drawn to the grounds at Bridgeport Park for the first-ever “Bark for Life” benefit for the American Cancer Society.
The event starts at 8 a.m. with registration, followed by agility demonstrations at 8:30, the blessing of the dogs at 9, a half-hour walk starting at 9:15 and activities from 9:45 to 11 a.m. that includes a Halloween costume contest.
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The walk is noncompetitive, for both dogs and owners and is intended to raise both funds and awareness.
Bark for Life coordinator Candy Spahr is excited about this first-time event for Santa Clarita.
“It’s really fashioned after Relay for Life and began as a feeder event for teams that hadn’t met their fundraising goals; so they could continue to raise money using their dogs,” she explained. “This year’s Relay for Life raised around $500,000. The goal for Bark for Life is $5,000 and right now, we’re at about $1,000.”
Spahr said that there are currently 34 dogs and 12 different teams signed up. She said the most unique team name so far is “The Butt Sniffers.”
“Is that not a riot?” she said, laughing.
Dogs of all sizes, from lap dogs to pit bulls, are participating. One of the Relay traditions that will carry over to Bark for Life is the Survivor’s Lap that begins the walk.
“There’s a group coming in of all mini-terriers. One of their guys is so excited because his dad is a cancer survivor and loves participating with his granddog.”
She said that they are hoping to have between 50 and 75 dogs on the park. Participants don’t have to have a canine companion to help raise money, they can just keep the walkers company.
According to the American Cancer Society website, the only requirement to participate in Bark For Life is the $20 registration/commitment fee (per owner and per dog) that is due upon registration. After that, anything raised through individual, team, or online fundraising is graciously accepted.
Team captains and team members are the "foot soldiers" in the fight against cancer. Teams are made up of eight to 15 dog owners who share a passion and commitment to raise money in support of the American Cancer Society’s mission of helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against cancer.
Monies raised at Bark for Life will go towards ACS’s everyday mission – to help people deal with cancer. The mission takes several directions:
- Helping people stay well – the ACS helps people everywhere take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable.
- Helping people get well. The ACS is in their corner around the clock to guide people through every step of their cancer experience.
- Finding cures – the ACS funds groundbreaking research that helps understand cancer’s causes, determine how best to prevent it, and discover new ways to cure it.
- Fighting back - Together with a grassroots force of citizen-soldiers, the ACS works with lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and rally communities worldwide to join the fight.
Spahr, who was named 2011 SCV Woman of the Year in part because of her dedication to the American Cancer Society, said that she is optimistic about the new event.
“It’s like any new event,” she said, referring to the buzz. “I’ve talked to many of my neighbors and they all say they’re going to be there, but nobody’s signed up yet. I think we’re going to have a lot of people show up and participate that day.
”Relay is an extraordinary event, because there we recognize caregiver persons,” she continued. “With this, we recognize the caregiver canines.”
She said that while Bark for Life includes a “luminaria” component – one of the most moving parts of Relay for Life, a candlelight tribute dedicated to those lost, dealing with or surviving cancer – the daytime event will feature a tribute wall instead of endless rows of candlelit bags.
“We want to make sure that, while we are honoring dogs lost to cancer, that the money that is being raised is for human cancer,” Spahr said, adding that she is researching some canine cancers and may have some veterinary experts available to share information on dogs dealing with the disease.
To learn more about Bark for Life and sign up or sponsor an existing participant, click here .