Man’s best friend is sometimes his best caregiver. That’s why dogs are joining the fight for less cancer and more birthdays.
Happy yet meaningful, Bark For Life events honor the lifelong contributions of guide dogs, service dogs, rescue dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, cancer survivor dogs, diagnostic dogs, and simply loveable pets. Annual events typically include doggie games, dress-up contests, music, food and demonstrations, and team/community fundraising. As with Relay For Life, Bark For Life celebrates cancer survivorship, honors people lost to cancer, and supports our mission of eliminating cancer by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against the disease.
Last July, Oklahoma City’s first annual Bark For Life attracted more than 100 dogs and 100 owners, raising more than $10,500.
“It’s hot in Oklahoma in July, so we held Bark For Life at twilight,” said Lauren Anderson, an American Cancer Society Relay For Life community manager. “Volunteers put water bowls everywhere and filled baby pools with ice water. And with Hefner Lake right there at the park, a lot of the dogs just jumped right in.”
The event culminated in a 1-mile walk along the shore. “All survivors, canine and human, led the stroll. When they returned, they discovered dozens of glowing luminarias, adapted from Relay For Life, casting soft yellow light on the lake. So many people who were moved said, ‘I had no idea it was going to touch me like this,’ ‘I can’t wait to come back,’ and ‘Now I know.’ ”
This success was just the beginning for the dedicated Oklahoma City Bark For Life committee, which is now holding fundraisers year-round. Last week’s fundraiser, for example, involved holiday pictures with a Grinch in front of a Whoville-like backdrop. Money from every photo and all the food went to the American Cancer Society. The committee also holds fundraising ice cream socials, chili cook offs and visits to hospitals and clinics. They even sell a calendar.
“It turns out that in addition to loving dogs, just about everyone on the Bark For Life committee has been touched by cancer,” says Anderson. “All of us have made wonderful new friends. Bark For Life is a way of giving back and doing something for those who’ve lived with cancer in a way that everyone enjoys. The dogs seem to love it, too!”