Pet Rock Fest is pleased, thrilled even, to announce that again the nonprofit animal welfare organization has awarded thousands in donations to numerous animal welfare charities.

With proceeds raised predominantly from the 2021 festival, Pet Rock Fest presented donations to organizations that benefit regularly from Pet Rock, as well as some new recipients. The event joined many in 2020 in “going virtual,” which raised a respectable amount for charities, but nothing beats the real thing. Pet Rock Fest 2021, which took place at Wyman Gordon in Grafton this past September, was hugely successful by any measurement.

Several organizations received donations from Pet Rock Fest, with others to be named throughout the year. Among those awarded include Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Boxer Rescue, KIND NEWS-Red Rover, Paws 4 a Cure, Foster Parrots-New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary, Juno’s Place/People for Pets in Peril, Maple Farm Sanctuary, Sweetpea Friends for Rutland Animals, Baypath Humane Society, Worcester Animal Rescue League, Dog Orphans, PittieLove Rescue, Second Chance Animals and a family in need from the Blackstone Valley area, whose dog required costly, emergency surgery.

PittieLove Rescue is an all-volunteer, foster-home-based rescue dedicated to the care, understanding, and adoption of Pit Bull Terrier type dogs, and has long been a recipient of Pet Rock Fest proceeds.

“We were so thrilled, happy and surprised to have received a very generous donation from Pet Rock Fest for attending the event in 2021,” remarks Noreen Ford, founder and executive director of PittieLove. “We have not missed one since becoming a nonprofit in 2006. Our donation helped a senior boy in our rescue with the removal of four mast cell tumors. It is certainly the best event every year and we thank all from the bottom of our hearts and paws!”

The Pet Rock Fest team chooses beneficiaries after researching their services, reputation and impact on the welfare of animals in the New England area. Fortunately, the area has many animal welfare organizations, rescues and shelters performing outstanding work. Pet Rock Fest issues proceeds to worthy animal related charities that support a variety of causes, from shelters to law reform to sanctuaries for farm animals.

“This certainly has been a year for the funds raised at Pet Rock Fest to help our fellow man and their companion animals,” says Jeannie Hebert, Pet Rock Fest founding partner. “In addition to the support to rescues, shelters and animal welfare organizations, we are very happy to have been able to help a family pay for the urgent surgery needed to save the sight of their young daughter’s service dog. Our great thanks to Dr. Laurie Klein and her team at VCA Westborough Animal Hospital for their part in the outstanding care for Princess Leia.”

Pet Rock Fest Founding Partner Charlene Arsenault adds: “The festival itself started as a reaction to an act of cruelty. And Pet Rock Fest’s mission has always been grounded in educating people about animal welfare issues and promoting kindness. Part of this mission involves bringing as many organizations together as possible to share their messages about kindness to animals. All animals. Ultimately, these organizations need funding to make a difference, or even survive. Everyone who attends, supports, and donates to Pet Rock Fest affects this cause in a real, tangible way.”

Pet Rock Fest has also supported several reward funds in local animal cruelty cases that aid in finding perpetrators of that cruelty, and has also paid for medical bills for pet guardians who were unable to afford it.

Stay tuned for details on the 24th annual Pet Rock Festival.

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Check out the amazing photos taken by Brielle MacDonald from @bootsberryphoto at the 2021 Pet Rock Festival.

©2021 Pet Rock Festival - All Rights Reserved - All photos taken by Brielle MacDonald @ Bootsberry Photography

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Each year, we ask the public to nominate people who have shown exemplary actions on behalf of our beloved animals. We look for the heroes who work tirelessly to protect the welfare of animals, or someone who has performed an act of pure kindness to save or protect an animal. Heroes come in all forms, and this year, Pet Rock Fest honors three humans and one animal who have shown amazing work and are worthy of our applause and attention.

Let’s meet this year’s heroes:

JOANN GRIFFIN, founder, president and volunteer team director of Central Massachusetts Disaster Animal Response Team (CMDART), established the organization in January of 2003, and it became a nonprofit in February of 2007. This team is made up of more than 100 volunteers throughout the Worcester County region.

The mission of CMDART is to provide information, training, support, supplies and personnel to help plan, prepare and respond to aid animals affected by man-made or natural disasters such as fires, tornadoes, ice storms, hurricanes and even pandemics.

Griffin, a licensed social worker (LICSW) and critical incident responder, has community development experience, served with American Red Cross of Central Mass, and responded to national and local disasters. She has trained with The Humane Society United States (HSUS), American Humane, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Noah’s Wish, Red Rover and SMART. She is a former board member and shelter volunteer of Dog Orphans Humane Shelter.

Recently, she aided emergency animal sheltering for the Great Dane incident in NH. During the Merrimack Valley gas explosion, she readied volunteers and equipment but ultimately only needed to supply goods to some of the shelters in the area. She organized delivery of N95 masks, personal protection equipment the organization had in inventory to medical personnel, and got pet food to local food pantries during the Covid-19 pandemic. She makes sure CMDART attends the Pet Rock Festival yearly to promote personal emergency prevention education for pet owners ahead of disasters, and also hosts the popular agility course at the event.

Besides being the team lead and founder of this organization, she coordinates and works closely with local animal control officers and other local organizations to find placements or re-unite animals with their owners following an incident.

“JoAnn’s compassion for animals and their families is evident each and every time she puts on her CMDART shirt and begins working on whatever is necessary to help animals through an incident,” says Patriciann Porter Adams, who nominated Griffin along with the entire CMDART volunteer team. “Just listening to her talk about the organization makes one realize how much this dynamic woman cares about animals and educating the public on CMDART’s mission. This award is a testament to her dedication to animals and their families in Worcester County and beyond.”

ANJIE COATES is a true hero for the animals. As an ACO, she once helped rescue a beagle who had decided to chase after a porcupine and got himself caught in a culvert for two days. Without hesitation, but with savvy smarts, Coates tied a rope to her ankle and went in headfirst to rescue the dog. The story is a typical one for Coates, one of the “behind the scenes” unsung animal heroes who quietly devotes lots of time to the welfare of animals. Coates has numerous grooming certifications and is a certified pet first aid and CPR instructor, too. Not only does she keep pets looking good at her grooming salon, but she keeps them safe and makes them feel comfortable---she has even helped many pets overcome skin problems.

Carving out time to volunteer at Worcester Animal Rescue League, she grooms animals waiting for their fur-ever homes. In fact, a year ago, she met Cricket at WARL, and he stole her heart. Cricket had lost all his fur. Coates adopted him and applied her groomer skills to treat Cricket‘s skin issues. Rodeo, G and Allister welcomed him into the Coates family. After a lot of love and patience, Cricket is a happy, hairy little guy now. He has his own Facebook page documenting his journey.

MADDISON (aka “Maddi”) has been a therapy dog for 15 years, helping to comfort those facing life challenges from age or illness. Bringing Maddison to see her aunt, NANCY AMBROSE saw the healing touch this sweet chi dog could have on people and turned this visit into a lifelong mission: Maddison’s Mission.

“When we talk about someone having a lifelong mission, Maddi of Maddison’s Mission is the model of that,” says Gail Fairbanks, who leads animal advocacy group Burt’s Brigade and nominated Maddison (and Ambrose) for the award.

Maddison has worked as a therapy dog with the elderly and young adults challenged by critical illness. She is the primary therapy dog for Care One Nursing Home of Millbury, MA, which she visits every Monday, and Brookdale of Eddy’s Pond in Auburn, MA, where she goes every Friday.

“Maddi seems to have a sense as to who needs her the most and gravitates to the elderly patients that prefer to remain in their rooms,” continues Fairbanks. “Her happiness to be patted and cuddled is just what is needed to help ease their feelings of isolation. Maddie is always excited to see her nursing home and rehab friends and actively ensures that no resident or patient is forgotten during the holidays.”

Ambrose runs a yearly fundraiser to gift the nursing homes with individual presents, arts and crafts supplies and much needed Alzheimer’s support dolls. Some 250 stuffed toy

Chihuahuas were gifted to nursing home residents one Christmas Eve so that everyone had their very own Chihuahua cuddle when Maddi is not around. When Maddison is not engaging with her nursing home friends, “her thoughts of helping them are never far away.” Maddi also participates in yearly fundraising walks for the Alzheimer’s Association and her cancer survivor friends of Bark For Life. Although Covid sidelined Maddison from visiting her friends this past year, Maddison has now returned to her mission with the same excitement she started with more than a decade ago.

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