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Keeping Up with the Contestants: Party in the USA!

Earlier this week, teams of ASPCA folks hit the road en route to top-secret locations—the cities and towns served by the winners of the ASPCA $100K Challenge. We’d been planning to show up, Ed McMahon-style, to surprise and celebrate the agencies who saved the most lives during our 3-month contest…

- First stop, Gulfport, MS,  Humane Society of South Mississippi—second-place finisher and winner of the Southeast region—and a room full of all the animals they’d saved during the Challenge.“My favorite part was when a community member approached and asked if these were the pictures of all the animals we had saved this year,” said HSSM’s Krystyna Szczechowski. “When I explained that these were JUST those saved in the 3-month Challenge, she burst into overwhelmed tears of joy!”

- 739 animals saved in 3 months, check. An increase of 414 over last year, check. Photo of the folks at Humane Society for Greater Savannah receiving ginormous-sized check for $25K for winning the Community Engagement prize in the 2011 ASPCA $100K Challenge, check…

“Normally our staff is more reserved, but today everyone was so excited and even crying!” said Guinn Friedman, HSGS director of operations. “This is amazing!” “Our animal care staff really took the on the majority of the work,” added Guinn. “We could not have made it this far without them! Diedre, Theresa, Whitney, Kate, Lee, Alison, Stephen, Casey, Jerome, Ricky, Mike, Mashanda, Missy, Carol…these people impress me every day!! And an extra thanks to Dr. Sherrie Kinsella, who came in on a random Saturday or Sunday to spay and neuter more animals so we could send them home sooner.” P.S. Reserved?! Um, this photo of HSGS was taken even before the contest began, guys!!

-And why are these people clapping?

They just found out that Greater Androscoggin Humane Society won the Northeast Region! We bet they’re also expressing appreciation for the incredible team that saved 1,303 animals in 3 months (629 more than the same time last year). “You are the best volunteers in the country,” GAHS Executive Director Steve Dostie thanked those who’d gathered for the announcement. GAHS operations manager Zach Black also handed out some special awards to staff, like this one to Eve Duplissis for “Best Tag Maker.”

(Oh, and Zach, some staff members want to give YOU a shout-out, too. “Without his dedication, longer-than-long hours and constant support he gave to everyone, we would not have had such an outstanding outcome,” they told us.)

- We were so thrilled to get to meet and talk with the incredible staffs, volunteers and supporters of the winning agencies, and were especially thrilled to hear juicy bits like this from City of Independence Animal Services supervisor Jennifer Polston: "During the Challenge," said Jennifer, "it was the first time we EVER had a line of people outside the shelter waiting to adopt!" IAS saved 964 animals in 3 months (that includes handsome Lidd, shown here)...

...resulting in the Missouri agency, a self-proclaimed "small, brick-and-mortar, 30-year-old shelter with great spirit and tenacity," topping the Midwest region.

- Have we mentioned the cakes yet? In addition to the big Ed McMahon check, we brought along cakes decorated with the total number of animals’ lives saved by the agency during the Challenge. “People in Walmart got a kick out of seeing us buying a cake that read 1,403 on it!” reported the ASPCA’s Susan Furukawa, Senior Manager, Online Community, on hand at Ramona Humane Society to celebrate their win of the West region.  “We showed up at 9AM, but Jeff [Sheppard, RHS CEO, shown with cake in question, below, and City councilmember Andrew Kotyuk] said he was there at 5 AM, and had people scouting through the town looking for ASPCA people, just in case!”

We brought pizza with us, too, for a party with staff and supporters, including volunteer extraordinaires Denise and Marsha, who showed up to exercise the dogs and celebrate.

-And now, for the Ed McMahon moment you’ve been waiting for… Balloons (because these guys blew us away, of course)…

…and the big check for $100K to the grand-prize winner, Austin Pets Alive!

How’d they respond? “I can’t even imagine what $100K will do for the animals in the community…I am going to start crying!” said APA! volunteer Shorey Russell. Added volunteer coordinator Sara Livermore, “It’s an amazing reward for all of the blood, sweat and tears. No one gives up at APA!” Nope—and that includes Starsky, a 2 1/2-week-old bottle baby, with his foster mom and APA! volunteer, Chylan Canterbury… (keep us posted on this little dude, please!)

- And you know what else made our day—the fact that Humane Society of South Mississippi celebrated saving more than 2K animals in 3 months by…saving more lives, of course! They offered fee-waived adoptions all day long!

“And we finished out the day with 50 lucky pets in new homes...just in time for the holidays!” Krystyna told us. Do these winners rock or what?! Thank you, again, and congratulations on a job well done.