By Breanna Bishop, Connor Muldowney and Ryan McPhail (video)
Ingham County Chronicle staff writers
LANSING – The Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter received some help from the third annual Best Friends Fest on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Spiral Dance Club in Lansing. The event encouraged Lansing-area pet owners to bring their pets to mingle and donate money, food and pet supplies for shelter animals.
The event raised about $2,000 and two large bins of pet supplies. Darcy Kelly, event coordinator, said “I was sure hoping for much more, but with the economy down, we did OK. I think even more than the donations, we are getting the word out. This still-young event is growing every year and will just continue to get bigger and better.”
Best Friends Fest was started by Kelly, who coordinates the event to remember a dog named Emmy, who died from severe neglect. Kelly’s sister, Pam Ross, who helps coordinate the event, says Best Friends Fest is a way for dogs that are in the same situation as Emmy to get help.
“We discovered there’s a need and we love dogs tremendously,” said Ross. “We thought, let’s try to start a benefit for dogs, just like Emmy. So, we did and it’s really taken off.”
Paul and Leisa Conklin, a couple from Ingham County, attended the event for the first time. They are proud owners of a pair of black Labradors, Jasmine, 8 months, and James, 1.
“We wanted to get the dogs out of the house,” Leisa Conklin said. “They are crazy sometimes, but most of the time they get along great.”
The pet party was an important destination for the Conklins, not only to get their dogs out of the house, but also to make Animal Care fund donations. They donated blankets, dog food and cat food to help shelter animals in Ingham County.
“This is the first time we heard about this event,” Paul said. “I think we may come back again next year.”
Besides donations, money is raised through a silent auction and a raffle, which feature items donated by local artists and people in the community. Ross says that services donated by local business owners, including training demonstrations and grooming services, also benefit the event.
Marie Welter, owner of Groomingdales East, has been a pet groomer for 15 years and volunteered to cut pets’ nails to give back to the community.
“I’d love to do this event again next year, if I’m asked,” Welter said. “I like to volunteer for events like this and it doesn’t hurt that it gets my name out there.”
Barbara Hamm, an artist at Great Lakes Artworks, has volunteered at the event since it began three years ago. She says that she donates items for the silent auction. Hamm says the event is a great way to raise awareness for the shelter.
“Everybody’s familiar with the Humane Society, but very few people are familiar with the efforts the shelter does,” said Hamm. “I think they think of the shelter as a place where they put dogs down, rather than try to place them and there’s more than that kind of effort that goes on at the shelter.”
The biggest contribution came from the Spiral Dance Club, which hosts the event for free.
“These people at Spiral have been absolutely wonderful to us,” said Ross. “They gave us this facility to use every year for nothing. That was their donation, which is tremendous because we looked elsewhere and they wanted $300 and up, just for one day. We start every year with a zero budget … it’s really hard, it’s difficult, but it’s an act of love.”