Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

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Animal Care Society Hosts Third Annual Benefit Bash
Presented by Planet Fitness

By Remy Sisk

Photos by Ryan Noltemeyer

On March 25, it’s all about the animals. That’s when the Animal Care Society (ACS) will be hosting its third annual Benefit Bash presented by Planet Fitness. Proceeds from the event will be benefiting the operation and sustainability of the Animal Care Society, which is Louisville’s first no-kill shelter. The four co-chairs of the event have been ardently working on this year’s bash for nine or 10 months, and thanks to their passion, skill and dedication, it’s sure to be the best iteration of the event yet.

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“My cat Griffin is what you call a ‘foster failure.’ I foster kittens for Metro Animal Services, and he was probably my second batch of kittens. I took him back when they went to get spayed and neutered, and I went back to check on him and I couldn’t leave him. So he came home with me. That was five years ago.” — Johnna Kelly and Griffin

Kate Hendon, Josh Laughlin, Matthew Porter and Johnna Kelly may have a myriad of links between them, but there is one common thread that has united the quartet in their work for the Animal Care Society: a true commitment to the cause. All four of them have their own, unique experiences adopting pets, and, as Hendon puts it, that is partially what brought the four – all of whom have worked on this event in the past in some capacity – together.

“I guess it really just started with some of the committee members and some of the other chairs here being involved through the shelter through volunteer and board work and really seeing the beginning parts of the benefit – this is only the third year – and seeing the opportunity to get the minds together and continue through it for many years to come,” she describes. “And that’s how we as a group connected because we’ve all been involved in animal rescue on some level for at least a decade.”

The ACS, founded in 1984, is the city’s first no-kill shelter, which means that it never gives up on its animals; it constantly works to match each and every one with a forever home. Over just the last 10 years, the ACS has placed over 8,000 pets in loving, caring and safe homes, and according to Porter, “It’s fundraisers like these that really keep everything going. And the Benefit Bash is the largest one we put on every year.”

“As soon as I moved back from New York City, I knew that I wanted a dog and was going to rescue a dog, and I rescued him from the Jefferson County Shelter in Madison, Indiana. And he was the first litter that I went up to, and he pummeled over the other dogs to come up to me – he was the only one I played with. And he’s been the best friend, amazing companion ever since then. He’s 7 and a half years old now.” — Josh Laughlin and Rocco

“As soon as I moved back from New York City, I knew that I wanted a dog and was going to rescue a dog, and I rescued him from the Jefferson County Shelter in Madison, Indiana. And he was the first litter that I went up to, and he pummeled over the other dogs to come up to me – he was the only one I played with. And he’s been the best friend, amazing companion ever since then. He’s 7 and a half years old now.”
— Josh Laughlin and Rocco

The event itself will take place March 25 at the Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center from 6 to 11 p.m., and Hendon ensures it will be an absolutely marvelous time. “We have not only an amazing dinner provided but also a complimentary bar with spirits from Tito’s and Four Roses with signature cocktails they’re going to create specifically for us,” she relates. “We’re going to have a DJ present – Derby City Diva – and we’re also going to have not just an amazing silent auction but also opportunities to donate directly to the shelter if an actual item is not your jive. We have an amazing trip to Tuscany that we’re going to be auctioning off that we’re really excited about and just opportunities to pick up other items here and there that you may not find anywhere else. And it’s going directly to the animals.”

Hendon goes on to detail the significance of these funds in the lives of these animals. Because ACS is no-kill, it can sometimes be a very expensive process to revive an injured or sick animal, but with events like the Benefit Bash, this kind of work is possible every day. “Some of the animals – whether they’re puppies or kittens or adult dogs – they come and they have serious medical conditions,” she says. “And because it’s a no-kill shelter … it can take a lot of time and resources to rehab these animals and prepare them to go to their forever home. Not only is [the fundraising] just for the upkeep of building and staff – which is mostly made of volunteers – it’s mostly to be sure these animals are as healthy and prepared to go home as they can be.”

“We decided we wanted to look for a third dog and we went around to all the shelters and found this little guy at Metro. And he has something of a sad story. He was abandoned in a backyard and not cared for. He came up to the glass and put his paw up as soon as we walked by. He had limited time – about three days left – but here we are three years later.” — Matthew Porter and Percy

“We decided we wanted to look for a third dog and we went around to all the shelters and found this little guy at Metro. And he has something of a sad story. He was abandoned in a backyard and not cared for. He came up to the glass and put his paw up as soon as we walked by. He had limited time – about three days left – but here we are three years later.”
— Matthew Porter and Percy

Laughlin echoes how critical the funds raised from the Benefit Bash are to the ACS. “I think it’s extremely important,” he maintains. “We’re a very grassroots organization, the first no-kill shelter in Jefferson County, and this event is so important because we do whatever we can to save any animal that we have. It’s not even animals that are dropped off at the shelter – we go throughout the state and rescue other animals. So while we might have some pushback on our budget for the benefit, when it comes to each individual animal, no way. No matter what it costs, we’re going to do whatever it takes to save each animal and also to find their forever home. It’s not an easy process for you to adopt an animal through the Animal Care Society because we want to make sure it’s the right fit. We want them to be in a great, safe, fun warm family home.”

If you think you could provide just the sort of home the animals at the ACS are looking for, attending the Benefit Bash will be a great first step. Not only will you enjoy the incredible food and singular cocktails, but you will also have the opportunity to learn about the ACS adoption process and even see some photos of the adoptable animals. And if you see a puppy, a kitten or an adult dog or cat that you would love to welcome into your home, you can plan your shelter visit to meet them in person.

“We own some property in Shelby Park and he was abandoned in a yard of our neighbor. And we took him in and I was convinced we were going to get him healthy, work with one of the local rescues I do work with and find him a new home, and less than a week in, I said, ‘He’s not going anywhere. This is his home.’ Five years later, he’s now our little boy’s best friend and just the sweetest companion to our family.” — Kate Hendon and Francis

“We own some property in Shelby Park and he was abandoned in a yard of our neighbor. And we took him in and I was convinced we were going to get him healthy, work with one of the local rescues I do work with and find him a new home, and less than a week in, I said, ‘He’s not going anywhere. This is his home.’ Five years later, he’s now our little boy’s best friend and just the sweetest companion to our family.”
— Kate Hendon and Francis

While you’re there, you can learn even more about what the ACS does on a daily basis. With an executive director like Bunny Zeller, who Laughlin says “would jump in front of a bus to save an animal,” you can be assured that the ACS is more steadfast than ever in its endeavors to place animals in loving homes. It works tirelessly year-round to accomplish this goal, and it simply couldn’t happen without the Benefit Bash.

So on March 25, enjoy the drinks, enjoy the food, enjoy the dancing, but also keep in mind that your ticket money is going toward saving animals’ lives and helping them find their forever homes. Tickets are $100 in advance and are available at animalcaresocietybenefitbash.com, where you can learn more about how this event and others like it so importantly help those who simply cannot help themselves. “I think this event is about giving a voice to the voiceless,” Porter emphasizes. “Because we have to take care of them and then they in turn take care of us. They are the voiceless and we have to speak for them.” VT