Most workdays I feel like a cast member at the Happiest Place on Earth. I work at the SPCA Albrecht Center with phenomenal people and around fantastic pets. Sometimes, I even get to sneak away from my desk and pet them (the pets, not the people, obviously).

As amazing as my co-workers are, the people that really shine are donors. Not just the people with money, but the people with time, talent and resources. This month, I’m astounded at an outpouring of support for this Saturday’s event, Lana-PAW-looza. The people aren’t just talking the talk, they are walking the walk- some, quite literally.

Culinary creativity:

Some of the fine folks helping us with Lana-PAW-looza are Bark-a-rita-ville contestants. These talented folks will bring creative culinary treats as well as adult beverages to sample to the crowd. Guests attending the event will vote for their favorite food, beverage, theme, and best booth overall.

As the coordinator for the event, I am privy to some of the delicious sounding dishes and wildly creative ideas these folks are bringing to Bark-a-rita-ville, some from far, far away. Helen Ferriter Faulk and Rachel Kepes, both of Charleston, are coming home to Aiken this Saturday to host a booth in support of homeless pets. The two young ladies won’t reveal their secrets just yet but are encouraging people to come see and taste first hand.

“I’m excited to be a part of something much bigger than a cook off. By participating, we are raising funds to educate people about the humane treatment of pets,” said Ferriter. In addition to the fine food, beverages and fun theme the girls are offering, they also have set up an online fundraiser page for the SPCA to collect donations from out-of-town friends who are unable to make the trip. Ferriter said, “It’s very exciting that we are coming together as a community to have fun and support the SPCA. I can’t wait to see all of my hometown friends Saturday!”

Some participants are using the experience to get to know people in Aiken or have Aikenites get to know them. Newcomers to our fine city are getting involved in this community event and business operators are marketing themselves through the opportunity to talk to potential customers.

Walking the walk:

Still, others will participate in our Twilight Walk for Animals before Lana-PAW-looza. Some of these participants have been miring sponsors for weeks with various reasons for doing so. Catherine Baker is raising funds to memorialize her sister, Courtney, who passed away July 7 this year. Courtney was an animal lover, as is Catherine, and we are touched by her gesture and generosity.

Off-site participants who can’t make the event will be walking elsewhere this Saturday. Samantha Charles will be walking down the beach during what I’m sure is a much needed vacation and Emily Dunaway will be walking down the aisle. The SPCA is so fortunate to have people thinking (and walking!) outside the box.

Finally, Joya DiStefano of Friends of the Animal Shelter will be participating in the Twilight Walk under the name FOTAS SNAP. All of the proceeds raised for the FOTAS SNAP walk will go directly to supplementing spay and neuter efforts in Aiken County. Participation in the walk is symbolic of our first steps in building a coalition through the SPCA and FOTAS. We are working together to identify the areas in Aiken County that require the most help, transport the pets to the SPCA clinic for low-cost sterilization, and return to the owner a happier and healthier pet.

This says nothing of the dozens of donations we have received for the silent auction from people and businesses from Augusta to Prosperity. Nor does it touch on the dozens of volunteers who have stepped up to prepare for and run the event. These people especially know how much fun the event will be and are willing to WORK right through it!

I’m overwhelmed with the generosity and creativity of our supporters. They stop at nothing for these pets, never allowing little things like their own wedding day (for goodness sake!) to get in the way of doing what they can to help. We are so appreciative to all of you that have gotten this event going, to those of you who have purchased tickets, or are planning to attend. We are looking forward to partying with you on Saturday!

Lana-PAW-looza is Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight at the SPCA, 199 Willow Run Road. Tickets are available online at ($20), by calling the SPCA at 803-648-6863 ($20), or at the gate the day of the event ($25).

A graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, Chrissey Miller has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Miller began work at the SPCA in January 2010 as volunteer coordinator. She is thrilled to be able to mesh her creative passion and sales experience together as development director, in charge of programming, fundraising, events and grant-writing. Miller and her husband David live in Aiken with their children, Blair and Gracey; their adopted tri-pawed dog, Zipper and adopted Dogue de Bordeaux/Lab mix, Django.