Tails and Bells Gala to raise funds for Stokes animal shelter

By Nicholas Elmes and Diane Blakemore - nelmes@civitasmedia.com, dblakemore@civitasmedia.com

DANBURY — Animal lovers working to raise money to create a new, no-kill animal shelter for Stokes County will be a lot closer to their $400,000 goal this weekend when the Friends of the Stokes Shelter hosts the Tails and Bells Gala at Moore Springs Manor.

“We are currently at $30,700 raised with ticket sales and sponsorships,” said Kaitlyn Green, who has been spearheading the fundraising portion of the event. She noted that they already had surpassed their goal of raising $25,000 through the event. “We would love to be above and beyond that this weekend, but we have been very happy with the sales at this point.”

Green said a local woman, Donna Lawrence, who has turned her story of pain and suffering into a beacon of hope for animals across the state, will be the guest speaker.

She will be joined by emcee Chad Tucker and auctioneer Stanley Smith for an evening full of fun, according to Green.

“We wanted it to be an entertaining evening,” said Green. “A lot of people when they hear ‘gala’ assume we just want people to come to help fund raise, but we wanted it to be a really fun evening for our guests as well.”

She said the event will be catered by Artist’s Way and will kick off with a cocktail hour at 6:45 p.m., which will allow guest to peruse the items offered in the silent auction. That will be followed by dinner, a talk by Lawrence and desert reception. The live auction is planned to start at around 9:15 p.m.

“One thing we are auctioning off that we are really excited about is a chance to name the new building for eight years,” said Green. “That will be commemorated with a plaque on the building.”

Green noted that the planned shelter will be very different from the existing Stokes County shelter.

“It will be community run, open to the public and no kill shelter,” she said, noting that while Friends of Stokes Shelter’s main focus is to get the new facility built and open to the public, they also spend time and money supporting the existing shelter. “Ninety percent of our county members support the current shelter.”

Tuesday was the last day to purchase tickets for the gala event, but Green said people could still help by making donations or volunteering to help work at either shelter.

“We have broken down the cost to support an animal and it costs about $20 a day when you figure in the labor, food and physical environment,” said Green. “So we are asking for yearly continued support, not just a one-time gift. We are certainly happy to have people volunteer as well.”

Green said people could find out more information by emailing friendsofthestokesshelter@gmail.com or could mail donations to P.O. Box 1807, King, NC 27021.

The Stokes County Board of Commissioners already has identified and donated a parcel of land in the Meadows community for the new shelter and Green said surveying of the property would be beginning soon.

“Hopefully by this time next year we will have a building sitting on that property,” she said.

About Donna Lawrence

In 2008, Lawrence was the victim of a vicious attack by a Pit Bull Terrier. Observing the dog, who had been abandoned in her neighborhood when its owners moved, Lawrence began to bring it food each day. One day the dog attacked her from behind.

“He grabbed me by the ankle and leg, and I could feel his teeth ripping through my leg,” Lawrence remembered.

As the dog lunged for her neck, Lawrence sent up a prayer. “I thought he would kill me,” said Lawrence.

She survived the attack, but suffered irreparable damage to her leg, a miscarriage, and will never be able to have children. Lawrence was also left with emotional scars, including a fear of dogs.

Ten months later a 6-week-old Pit Bull puppy was found beaten, burned, and left for dead in a Greensboro park. Rescued by the Guilford County Animal Shelter, the puppy was isolated from other animals due to the infections it suffered and placed in foster care.

Given the name Susie, the foster home is where she met Lawrence. Even through her fear Lawrence recalled, “Susie spoke a powerful message to me of love, hope and acceptance. She forgave humans and taught me to forgive dogs.”

Lawrence adopted Susie, and the two have worked to change the culture of animal cruelty and the reputation of dangerous breeds. According to Lawrence, her attack was not the fault of the dog, but the people who mistreated the dog.

One way in which Lawrence has brought about change is through Susie’s Law. When the person responsible for Susie’s abuse was found, Lawrence learned that no jail time would be served due to extremely lenient laws. Susie became the poster dog for a new law.

“Supporters flooded the senators and representatives with calls, letters, and emails,” Lawrence explained. Susie’s Law was passed, reclassifying Cruelty to Animals to a Class H felony.

Since then the pair have traveled the state sharing their message of safety, kindness and responsible care for pets. Lawrence has started a nonprofit called Susie’s Hope to further the mission of education. Three books and a movie have been produced sharing their tale. And in 2014 Susie was named Hero Dog of the Year by the American Humane Association.

To learn more or connect with Donna and Susie, visit www.susieshope.com.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes. Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.

By Nicholas Elmes and Diane Blakemore

nelmes@civitasmedia.com, dblakemore@civitasmedia.com

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