Pottstown Bark for Life raises money to fight cancer

Photo Kevin Hoffman The start of the annual American Cancer Society Bark for Life walk at Memorial Park on Saturday was led by the Easter Bunny.

2014 Top Dog contest going strong

POTTSTOWN — Bark for Life may be over, but you still vote for who you think should be the 2014 Top Dog.

Voting ends on April 18 and ballots can be found online or in print.

Check the box or circle the photo of the dog you would like to vote for, then mail in a check totaling the amount of votes you wish to give to the dog. Each vote costs $1. Checks should be made out to the American Cancer Society.

You can vote for more than one dog on the ballot, just make sure you send separate checks for each dog and list the dog’s name in the subject line of the check.

Mail your check and the ballot to 2014 Top Dog Contest c/o The Mercury, 24 N. Hanover St., Pottstown PA 19464.

POTTSTOWN — Hundreds of people and pups strutted their stuff at Memorial Park Saturday morning at Bark for Life.

The annual event, which started in Pottstown eight years ago, raises money for the American Cancer Society, as well as helping to increase cancer awareness.

Sue Dudek, a Bark for Life co-chairwoman, said the event is all about honoring those diagnosed with cancer and to appreciate “canine caregivers.”

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Dogs who survived cancer wore purple bandanas and their owners — their caregivers — wore yellow shirts.

Dudek said something new was brought to the bark event this year. On Saturday, participants were able to honor someone on the Bark Wall of Honor. The wall displayed bone-shaped placards with names of loved ones written on them.

“People have been coming up all day long filling out a little bone card in memory or honor of someone,” she said.

Dudek said the Pottstown community is extremely supportive of Bark for Life and that the event has expanded across the country and internationally.

Last year, the first Bark for Life was held in Canada.

“The people in Pottstown have raised, through Bark for Life, over $550,000,” she said adding that $30,000 has been raised so far this year.

Fundraising efforts coincide with the American Cancer Society timeline, which means barkers can raise money through August 31 of this year.

Although the walk officially kicked off at 10 a.m., residents were out with their dogs an hour early taking advantage of the nice weather.

Dudek said this year’s event was the sunniest of them all.

“This is the best weather that we’ve had,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful day to let the dogs out.”

Participants at the mainly upbeat event were reminded of the cause they are fighting for when the 2014 Grand Marshal, Kathy Schaub, got up to speak before the walk started.

“This event honors the dogs who give us loving care when we are sick,” she said. “Gizmo was a rescue, but really he rescued me.”

Fighting back tears, Schaub said her dog Gizmo knew just what to do when she was sick.

“Some days he knew I was strong enough to go for a walk, while other days he would curl up next to me...Gizmo was my constant companion.”

Schaub, a New Jersey resident and breast cancer survivor, also said that dogs teach people what they — and those battling cancer — already know about life.

“He taught me to slow down and be (fully) in the moment, to unwind and to stop and smell the roses,” she said. “And to make time for play. To feel the breeze in your hair and to celebrate the little things.”

During her opening remarks, Schaub said Gizmo also comforted her mother while she battled cancer.

After the speeches and a blessing, the walkers lined up and took to the track while the event’s theme song, “Who Let The Dogs Out”, blared over the speakers.

The music was so loud and upbeat that several fans at the baseball games nearby got up and danced in the stands.

While walking around the park, participants were able to stop and speak with vendors, adoption agencies and pet health experts.

Bridget Hanley, of Limerick, was at the event with her English bulldog Matilda and her twin daughters.

Hanley, who works at the Animal Medical Center in Trappe, was on a team with several of her coworkers.

“I think (Bark for Life) is important because it raises public awareness but it also raises funds and it gets people donating,” Hanley said.

This is the fourth year Hanley and her team have participated in Bark for Life.

Dudek said Bark for Life had been growing strong for eight years and that it will continue to grow - something that Hanley notcied as a returning participant.

“I think there has been — in the last four years — a lot more participation and it seems like the numbers grow every year,” she said.

And for Dudek, the continued support is an awesome feeling.

“I’m so happy that so many people have come out to support this and hopefully we’ll continue,” she said.