Helping out, virtually

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk, West Knoxville

Let’s help some friends who spend their lives helping others. It has been a tough time for all non-profits, but perhaps even tougher for those whose mission is to care for animals and the human-to-animal connection.

Lynn Petr, founder and executive director of STAR (Shangri-la Therapeutic Academy of Riding), saw her programs come to a halt and fundraisers cancelled. They still had horses and properties to tend. The creative group found ways to keep things going, even providing some therapy for at-risk adults when they could.

Auction items in the Bridles and Blue Jeans event include gift basket with a horseshoe cross and Sonoma Home Happy Trails Cowboy Hat dip bowl plus other items.

As they hoped for better days, the time kept drawing closer to STAR’s major fundraiser, Bridles & Blue Jeans. After it became necessary to rescheduled for a second time, they decided to take the event virtual, keeping the auction. The hope is that the auction will bring in much needed funds as they look forward to classes, camps and programs moving back to the barns as soon as possible.

Young-Williams Animal Center executive director Janet Testerman faced similar issues. YWAC depends heavily on volunteers to keep things moving along. They also depend on fundraisers for a good portion of the center’s budget. It has been a very different spring, summer and early fall.

Cause for Paws, which has a five-year history of fun and funds for Young-Williams, is the fall fundraiser. It will now be a virtual event as well.

Young-Williams has made huge leaps forward in the past few years. In 2018, it achieved a 90 percent-plus save rate and earned the designation as a no-kill shelter. They have maintained that status and even improved on the save rate, which is pretty remarkable for a shelter that also serves as the municipal shelter for the city and county.

The YWAC staff is working hard to replace the Cause for Paws in-person festivities with ones that will translate to fun on a virtual level. They promise surprises, visits from four-legged friends and heartwarming “tails.”

I am going to tell you how to sign up for STAR’s auction, which started Monday and continues through Saturday. I am going to give you a link to Cause for Paws. And, I am asking you to follow through and help.

As I read the emails with the announcements of two MORE events that I always enjoy attending going virtual, I was sad. I don’t particularly care for virtual parties and social events. For one thing, my hair looks flat on Zoom, and I can’t seem to get the lighting right in my office. For another thing, I miss talking to those friends who I only see at fundraising events. I know some fascinating people well enough to talk to at parties but not well enough to invite to dinner. I miss them, and the virtual events don’t give that back to me.

As I whined, I was hit with a reality check. Do I really want to help? Or am I just a “see-and-be-seen” attendee? I have to be selective on the causes I support because I am not wealthy. I was taught that everybody has something to give, as one of my mother’s favorite stories was the biblical one about the widow’s mite. (Mark 12:41-44 if you are interested.) I don’t want to be a see-and-be-seen. I do want to help.

Do your own soul-searching. I can emphatically tell you that your hundreds of dollars or your “mite” will be well-used and much appreciated by STAR and YWAC.

To bid on auction items or make a donation to STAR, follow the link below.

  1. Click on Hyperlink above
  2. Click on register for Auction
  3. Join the auction on Apple, Android or the web

For Cause for Paws:

Call YWAC at 865-705-9689 or visit 

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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