Fido 5K to raise awareness for local animal shelter

PUNXSUTAWNEY — This Sunday, individuals with a passion for animals, a passion for running/walking — and especially those with passions for both — will have the opportunity to put their feet to the ground to help raise funds for and awareness of the Willow Run Sanctuary for Animals, owned by Margo Stefanic and Tommy Shaffer, in Coolspring.

The Fido 5K Walk/Run will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. on the Rails to Trails course, beginning near Richard L. Kuntz Memorial Field.

Season Petrovich, who is organizing the event, has always had a strong admiration for those who seek to prevent and/or alleviate animal cruelty — which is what the Willow Run Sanctuary for Animals accomplishes in providing food and shelter for stray and abandoned animals.

Season and her husband, Joe, are animal owners and placed a stray dog from their area at Willow Run earlier this year.

Staying with the theme of the event, runners are invited to run with — or without — their pet dogs, although participants are only allowed one dog per handler.

Pre-registration for the 5K has passed, but runners are still more than welcome to register prior to the race on Sunday at the rate of $20 per runner.

Due to the nature of the pet-friendly race, there are also a few guidelines runners with dogs must follow:

• Owners must clean up after their own dogs. Bags will be provided at the beginning of the race, and bags may be left along the side of the trail for volunteer pickup at a later time.

• Only non-aggressive dogs will be allowed. Runners will be required to sign a waiver relieving all liability from race coordinators, the Rails to Trails Association and any volunteers involved in the planning of the race.

• Vaccinations and licenses must be up-to-date on all dogs.

• Runners with dogs are asked to start at the back of the pack to allow sufficient room for those who are running without dogs.

• Children are welcome to run/walk; however, dogs must be in the hands of someone 15 years of age or older.

As the purpose of the event is to help raise funds for the sanctuary, boxes will be available at the race to make donations of food for cats and dogs or to make cash donations.

Prizes will also be awarded to animals in six different categories:

• Smallest dog;

• Largest dog;

• Best costume;

• Hairiest dog;

• Fastest (first dog finisher);

• Top three finishers overall (with or without a dog).

Note: To have a dog considered for any of the above prize categories, runners must bring their dogs to the registration table by 12:30 p.m. to have their picture taken and judged by the Fido 5K Committee.

Based on information on Willow Creek’s website, the sanctuary is a 10-acre, diversified terrain “nestled in the hills of Coolspring.”

It is a state-certified, non-profit organization, which, the site says, makes it more difficult to obtain funding for the animals’ basic survival needs than it might be for a larger non-profit organization.

“The Willow Run commitment is to provide perpetual care — housing, food and veterinarian care — as well as lots of love and attention for each and every animal that comes to the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives,” the website says, speaking to the mission of Willow Run.

Animals of all kinds — from dogs and cats to rabbits, poultry and rodents — who have been abandoned or are stray, neglected or stranded find a safe refuge place at the sanctuary. The owners and staff maintain that they believe there is a “humane alternative for every circumstance,” but Willow Run goes through $500 worth of animal food in just a week.

Funds raised at the race will go toward helping the sanctuary defer these and other related costs to ensure proper and premium care for the animals.

Anyone with questions about the race can call Petrovich at 952-0495 or Pam Smorey at 938-9287. Those seeking more information on Willow Creek should visit the sanctuary’s website at