When Derek Hough"s biggest fans wanted to give the Dancing with the Stars celebrity a special gift for his 26th birthday, it made perfect sense for them to unite and come up with something really spectacular. But what do you get the guy who seems to have everything?
"Derek has often vocalized his support of companion animal issues by tweeting messages to encourage and educate the public on topics such as pet adoption over buying a pet, and since he regularly shares images of himself volunteering at local shelters to walk dogs, we realized that our mutual love of animals was a good place to start," says Lydia Lane, the project"s organizer.
And so the idea of making a donation in Derek"s name to an animal rescue organization was born. As a supporter of Best Friends for over 20 years, Lydia decided that the Utah-based sanctuary would be a good fit for the donation. She knew the money would be put to good use to make a difference in the lives of animals in need.
Lydia used Twitter to galvanize Derek"s worldwide fan base. Pledges poured in from Derek"s supporters around the world - Denmark, France, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK were just some of the far-flung places. When Best Friends mentioned the upcoming Strut Your Mutt event, Derek"s fans decided to form a Dog Pack to help raise even more funds. Team Derek Hough - or the Houghaholics as they are known - really took their fundraising efforts to the next level. All told, they raised nearly $5,000 in the name of homeless dogs on behalf of Derek.
"For people to have gone out of their way to donate their time and money to help animals in need through Best Friends is amazing. And that they did so in honor of my birthday, that"s just truly inspiring," says Derek.
It"s Derek"s fans" dedication to the mission of No More Homeless Pets that helped turn this fundraiser from an idea into a reality. Whether it"s supporting him comforting pound puppies or burning up the dance floor, it"s clear that Derek"s fans are an incredibly passionate and loyal bunch who embrace any opportunity to express their appreciation and support for him.
"You inspire so many people without even saying a word," writes Amarilys, a fan who contributed to Derek"s gift from Puerto Rico. Jenn in New Jersey says, "Derek, you inspire me nearly every day to go after my dream no matter how crazy it may seem. You lead by example!"
Tessa in Vermont says, "Seeing you on Dancing with the Stars has always inspired me to be the best that I can be. I"m sure you have many adoring fans who tell you how important you are, but if you"re ever wondering if you really made a difference to someone, you made a difference to me. Thank you for helping me to believe in myself."
Stephie in California writes, "Thank you for the entertainment and creativity you"ve given us. It was a pleasure to take part in your birthday gift. I love being your fan because you"re so amazingly talented in everything you do."
It"s not just the two-legged fans who find Derek"s compassion, charm and talent irresistible, though. The tale of one little tenacious terrier is a good example of the support he gets from four-legged fans.
In addition to being a longtime Best Friends supporter, Lydia has done charity work for several other celebrities"
foundations, and she"s volunteered with numerous animal welfare organizations. It was during one of her volunteer stints as a dog walker and dog socializer that she was asked if she wanted to foster a 9-month-old special-needs puppy.
Mackey, at right, in his winning costume at the Strut Your Mutt in Los Angeles
The little Yorkie mix, then named Mac, had a condition called luxating patella (slipping kneecap) in both back legs. He needed a warm, loving home to recoup post-surgery for a minimum of 16 weeks. Since Lydia had never had a dog before, she was unable to commit to that block of time, but she agreed to foster him for the initial 8 weeks until he could be adopted out.
Needless to say, the pooch, now renamed Mackey, never left his new mom"s side! And he was there at Strut Your Mutt, happily supporting Team Derek Hough, and clearly mesmerizing the judges who chose him as one of the costume contest winners.
The Houghaholics turned their passion into a lifesaving endeavor that was ultimately a real win-win for the animals and the celebrity who loves them. Rock on, Team Derek Hough! To read more about Derek, visit the website Pure Derek Hough