Where has the time gone? December is here already! While the holiday season pushes full steam ahead, we are taking some time to slow down and reflect on all we have accomplished this year.
The last 12 months brought so many wonderful things. We invite you to look back with us to recount some highlights from 2019.
We celebrated our ODRC-Accredited “Step By Step” Service Dog Training Program at Mansfield Correctional Institution starting its second full calendar year as part of our organization.
Investing in our future, we dove in headfirst by transitioning all of our records and data to our Customer Relationship Management system. This process helps to streamline the already unique and essential in-home transition training process to meet the needs of our kids and families waiting for their service dog.
Things went from sweet to savory on February 23rd when we hosted the third annual Mac ‘n’ Cheese Throwdown! Top honors in the Classic Mac category were given to Luxe Kitchen & Lounge; Punch Bowl Social was top dog in the Modern Mac category; and Two Bucks was the People’s Choice winner. Over $75,000 was raised for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. We found a new home for the event in 2019 at Cleveland Public Auditorium and we can’t wait to return on February 29, 2020 for our fourth annual #MacDown!
One of our Kids Who Can! hosted her second youth empowerment project fundraiser for us at the beginning of March. Galaxy Amethyst Cosplay, a teenage cosplayer from Chillicothe, Ohio, sold pins and prints at the 2019 Cleveland ComiCon and raised $80 to benefit W.A.G.S. 4 Kids.
On March 20, our hearts were deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Myles, one of our first kids to receive a W.A.G.S. service dog. The loss of Myles was mourned by the entire W.A.G.S. community and was a reminder that “the human spirit is one of ability, perseverance, and courage that no disability can steal away.”
We were out and about in our local communities throughout April. We practiced our mission of kindness and “inclusion always, in all ways” at the Family Kindness Fair hosted by the Mandel Jewish Community Center on April 7. On April 13, we spent time at the St. Monica Health and Wellness Fair educating the public about our cause.
To kickoff our crazy summer season, we participated in two fun events on May 24.
The first was a Kids Who Can! Youth Empowerment Project – Strongsville Middle School's "Mustang Roundup" Field Day – created by student, Ava. She thought of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids for her school project because her older brother Myles received one of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids' first service dogs. Myles' untimely passing earlier this year led W.A.G.S. 4 Kids to name a puppy in his honor. During the Mustang Roundup, Ava, her mom Suzi, and her dad Vince got to meet puppy Myles, named for their brother/son – and 1,200 Strongsville Middle School students did, too! Overall, the Mustang Roundup raised more than $9,000.
Later that day we got to wind down at Cleveland Scene Magazine’s Taste Of Summer Yappy Hour. Enjoying the views of the Flats East Bank, it was the perfect start to Memorial Day weekend.
The Browns Bunch selected us to be their charity partner for their 2019 Dawgs for the Dawgs Tailgating event! As “the charity that Cleveland grew,” we had an absolute blast on June 29 meeting Hanford Dixon, and bringing some of our newest service dogs in training to the tailgate. The Browns Bunch donated $2,687 to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids!
July was considered our “dog days of summer” – we were busy working like dogs!
The month began with founder Wendy Crann retiring and long-time Director of Development Sera Nelson stepping into the role of Executive Director. With this welcomed change, the organization knew the future was bright because of Wendy’s leadership over the last 15 years and Sera’s eagerness to grow the organization and branch out like never before.
The month rolled us into some of our favorite annual events. We chatted with the participants of the Sheffield Days Poker Run on July 13. On July 21 we were back on the green at Fowler’s Mill Golf Course for the 10th annual Barley House Golf Outing. The next weekend we had fun in the sun at the North Royalton Pet Carnival.
We ran, walked, and rolled into August and into our second annual Wonder Run 5K on August 3! This event brings together an amazing variety of people – athletes, families, W.A.G.S. 4 Kids families and their service dogs, supporters, friends, and more. We had a great event this year with a crowd of over 200 celebrating all abilities with us!
To end the month, we were proud to be the charity partner for the fourth annual Flats East Bank Arts Fest.
After Labor Day weekend, we were guests at Dentzler Elementary School in Parma for an educational assembly about service dogs. Later in the month the school held a “change for change” fundraiser for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, raising $1,250!
On September 8, we kicked off football season at 92.3 The Fan’s 6th N Barley FanGate Event – an annual tailgate hosted in the Barley House parking lot. We were proud to display and sell our exclusive “Bark Loud, CLE Proud” Cleveland Football T-shirts that were designed and printed by our guys at Grafton Correctional Institution.
Later in the month was the second annual Beers and Birdies Charity Golf Scramble sponsored by Harry Buffalo Painesville. After a wonderful day on the green, the clam bake at Harry Buffalo was the perfect way to wind down.
October started strong with two more service dog partnerships. Rory met his service dog Roo on October 10, and Miley met her service dog Mo (named after longtime W.A.G.S. friend and WKYC Channel 3 reporter Monica Robins) on October 28.
On October 25 we celebrated being “Cleveland Grown” at the fourth annual W.A.G.S.inCLE Night Out Gala held again at the beautiful Ariel International Center. We honored amazing people who have impacted our program more than they will ever know. The generosity of our supporters raised $46,877.89 for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids' programs and services.
We had a spooky good time as one of Platform Beer Co.’s nonprofit Tuesday charity partners at our Howl-O-Ween event on October 29. The creativity of the pet owners the dressed up their pups for our costume contest was unmatched!
On November 15, we partnered with Yelp Cleveland for their Holiday Hop as a kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Throughout the event, $1,070 was raised for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids in honor of Cleveland.com reporter Nicki Delamotte.
December is like our wrap-up month here at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. We make our lists and check them twice to tie up any loose ends from 2019 while we have our sights set on 2020 and all that is to come.
Highlights every December are our company holiday parties. These holiday celebrations aren’t held at the office. Instead, we dash on to Grafton and Mansfield Correctional Institutions with pizza, soda, and other treats to bring the holidays to our inmate trainers and service dogs in training. These men are such a huge part of our program and we are appreciative of all they do.
What a wonderful year it has been. Our hearts are so full looking back on all we have done and knowing how many new friends, families, and supporters we have added to our W.A.G.S. 4 Kids family tree. As we look forward to 2020 and all that lies ahead – a new decade, and in many ways a year full of new beginnings – we are forever grateful for the grassroots support that brought us here and continues to help us thrive.
Still looking for New Year’s Eve plans? We’re hosting CLE’s Singles Only NYE Party in the Flats East Bank – it’s Cleveland’s only singles only New Year’s Eve party! We’ll be ringing in the New Year with 150+ single Clevelanders at Truman’s 216. The event features an open bar, complimentary appetizers, DJ, champagne toast, and more! One hundred percent of ticket proceeds benefit Jazzy’s Holiday Health Fund to take care of our 2020 vet costs. Hope to see you there!
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and an even better New Year!