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Wilson Dog Paddle to benefit abused animals

WILSON – Three local programs that rescue and rehabilitate surrendered, neglected, abused and forgotten animals will benefit from the fourth annual Wilson Dog Paddle, slated for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Island Yacht Club in Wilson.

This year, the fundraiser will benefit two local no-kill animal rescue organizations – Niagara Dogs Alive and Diamonds in the Ruff – as well as Dog Tags Niagara, which pairs returning soldiers with shelter dogs to encourage a course of rehabilitation. Dog Tags Niagara is backed by the Niagara SPCA and Niagara University’s Student Veterans Association.

The Wilson Dog Paddle begins at 10 a.m. when participants of the paddle portion of the event arrive to put their kayaks and canoes in the water for a leisurely paddle throughout the harbor, Twelve Mile Creek and even Lake Ontario, if conditions permit.

Registration recently closed for the paddle portion of the event, but the public is encouraged to attend and enjoy a basket raffle and live music by Fran Matthews, Mike Tilton and Experimental Sandwich and purchase a barbecue meal for $12 created by Doghouse Willie, a competitive barbecue team from Wilson.

Founder Joanne Ruppel-Frawley said she started the fundraiser four years ago as an outlet for her grief over the deaths of her brother, Dan, and her dog, Willow, within two months of each other in early 2011.

“I felt that, through my grief, if I could create something positive, it could be an outlet for myself and others, too,” she recalled. “You see how much these organizations struggle. It’s an endless job and these volunteers don’t get paid. You wonder if there’s something you can do to help, because they always need funding. They rely on donors and fundraising. I thought I can do something about that – I can raise a little money.”

Ruppel-Frawley said she attracted a couple dozen participants the first year and capped it off at 75 last year, with at least as many attendees from the community.

“Not everyone wants to participate in the paddle and they like to just come and hang out and listen to music and do the raffle and that’s cool, too,” she said. “We love that.”

There are still sponsorship opportunities available for organizations and businesses that support the no-kill movement and organizers are still looking for contributions for the basket auction. Call Ruppel-Frawley at 622-3484.

For more information, visit: www.thewilsondogpaddle.com and look for updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thewilsondogpaddle.