Bowling for PAWS: Keeping Pets With Their Owners
by Aaron Krein
Helping people and animals in need are two services of volunteering that are usually done separately. However, the Albany Damien Center’s program, PAWS, is able to do both by raising funds to keep people with HIV or AIDS with their pets. On Sunday, February 21st, a fundraising event called “Bowling for PAWS” will take place at Playdium Bowling Center at 11 a.m.
The PAWS program, which stands for “Pets Are Wonderful Support,” was established in Albany in 2003. It is loosely based on the Chicago chapter and there are a couple of similar programs around the country. This program, according to local PAWS coordinator Diane Metz, is difficult to fund so events like this one are necessary.
“The program isn’t a typical AIDS and HIV program so we don’t have a regular grant funding source that way and it’s not a typical animal program because we’re not rescuing animals and spaying them,” said Metz.
PAWS has over 100 members that are provided services like veterinarian care, grooming care, and an emergency pet fund up to $200 annually for a pet owner. There is also a pet food pantry and pet wellness clinics free for all members. When clients are ill or admitted to the hospital, volunteers help by giving “in-home care” for their pets.
“We provide support so folks who are positive can keep their pets at home with them when either the financial or physical challenges of the virus might make it otherwise impossible,” said Metz.
This is the sixth time PAWS has held the event at Playdium after a volunteer brought up the idea based on her love for bowling. Neil Luther, the owner of the Playdium Bowling Center, said that his business usually holds fundraisers for different organizations around four or five times a year. He finds that bowling is a “fun” way to get people together, especially when it involves raising money.
“A lot of people can be involved in the event,” said Luther. “They can sit down and have a good time and support a good cause.”
This is the biggest event of the year for the PAWS program, which motivates many members and volunteers to spread the word. Metz, an animal rescuer on the side, looks at this program as a benefit for the pets themselves.
“From a rescue point of view, this is a homelessness prevention program in a lot of ways because there are people who cannot afford their animals otherwise and would be surrendering them to an already overburdened shelter system,” said Metz.
PAWS uses the non-profit crowdsourcing website, Causevox, for the event. The organization initially used FirstGiving and switched last year after the Albany Damien Center’s Executive Assistant Aaron Bogert discovered it. Bogert found the former service “unnecessarily complicated” especially for those who are technophobic.
“It seems to be intimidating people less than First Giving and we seem to be getting, in my opinion, more people signed up through it,” said Bogert.
This year, PAWS hopes to make $30,000 in funds at the event, which would nearly triple the $11,000 they made last year. Originally, individual bowlers would sign up and pay to play at the event, which would bring in $2,000. Now, bowlers who sign up are encouraged to raise additional funds for the cause. According to Metz, the first time they used this strategy, funds increased to $8,000.
“We’ve basically already made more than last year so whether we hit that 30 goal or not, we’ve at least improved upon last year,” said Bogert.
A 50/50 raffle as well as raffle baskets will be sold in order to raise more money. Drag performers Chardonnay LaTease and Frieda Munchon are planned to perform at the event as well as DJ Larceny.
Pets provide good health for people by lowering blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, Metz said. Providing a companion for those with HIV or AIDS is especially crucial during these times.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around this virus and many of our people are still abandoned by family and friends. Our tagline is “Imagine having a life-threatening illness… now imagine going through it alone,” said Metz. “So, if you had to give up your pet on top of that, it would be devastating. You would have nobody.” -30-