Four-legged friends get appreciation

Man’s best friends came to Hessel Park on Saturday to support the American Cancer Society.

“Bark For Life” is a fundraising event for the cancer society, which supports services for area patients and their families, as well as cancer research and education programs at schools and organizations. Saturday’s event featured a one-mile walk, entertainment and canine contests.

A $25 preregistration fee or $35 registration fee onsite was needed to participate, and all proceeds went toward the society.

Event participants brought their pets, which ranged from a Yorkshire terrier to a golden retriever to a dachshund.

Michelle Roberts, of Urbana, said she heard about the event while participating in Relay for Life, another event held to raise funds to fight cancer, and decided to come with her dog.

“I think this is a chance to get out and have fun,” Roberts said. “It is nice to see people donate for the cause.”

Debi Allen, a volunteer from Fetch! Pet Care, said she felt great to support the event.

“Cancer touches everybody,” Allen said. “Especially pets as well, we see it a lot in some of our clients. To be able to be out here and volunteer time is a great opportunity.”

She said the event is a unique way to get the public involved with the American Cancer Society.

“To be able to get pets involved because so many of our pets also are affected by cancer, it’s a great way to get them involved and to reach out to another population and raise money for a great cause,” Allen said.

Lauren Morenz, the head volunteer, said the event was also a way to show gratitude for dogs.

“It is a great way to go out there supporting all of those (who are) out there for cancer,” Morenz said. “It is also a way to say ‘Thank you!’ to our four-legged friends who are such caregivers both emotionally and spiritually there for us.”

Morenz added that the event is personally related to her.

“The American Cancer Society is an organization that I have very near (and) dearly in my heart,” Morenz said. “My mother passed away of cancer in June of 2008, so whatever I can give back to cancer societies and ways to find a better cure, to find anything to help on this horrible, horrible disease.”