On Broadway for No More Homeless Pets

Best Friends celebrities, fundraisers and staff join Oprah in the Live Your Best Life Walk in New York. May 10, 2010
By Best Friends Animal Society

On a cold and windy Mother's Day morning along the Hudson River in Manhattan, a throng of thousands stood behind a ribbon marking the start of the Live Your Best Life Walk, a celebration of O, the Oprah Magazine’s 10th anniversary. Cutting the ceremonial ribbon that launched the walk was Oprah herself, flanked by Best Friends' celebrity supporters Rachelle Lefevre, Maggie Q, Neko Case, and Emmylou Harris. Also alongside were "DogTown" stars John Garcia, Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista and Best Friends fundraiser Joan Couturier, who, having raised nearly $18,000 for Best Friends, won the opportunity to walk with Oprah at the head of the crowd to Times Square.

Moments before the ribbon cutting, Oprah welcomed the crowd of fundraisers, saying from the stage, "Today’s walk is about giving back." For Best Friends and its many supporters in the crowd, the walk was about giving back to the animals — by bringing enthusiasm and support to our No More Homeless Pets mission.

Joan Couturier with Oprah

Rachelle Lefevre and Maggie Q

After a brisk walk up the West Side Highway, along 57th Street, and down Broadway, the crowd filled Times Square, where Best Friends' staff and volunteers stood ready to promote the organization and our mission. A group of dogs, all rescues and now serving as therapy dogs with the Delta Society in New York, drew walkers in, many of whom signed a pledge to adopt and not purchase their next pet.

Meanwhile, a few blocks down, another stage welcomed the top 10 fundraisers supporting all the organizations represented at the Walk.

"I walked for Best Friends Animal Society," Couturier said to the cheering crowd, her voice projected across Times Square, "and I raised $17,779. … They take care of some 800 dogs with physical, mental and emotional problems, and they are the best."

Rachelle Lefevre

A little later, actress and our Puppies Aren’t Products spokesperson Rachelle Lefevre stood on the stage alongside the celebrities supporting the other nine charities, which included legendary actress Bette Midler, recording artists Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson, as well as surgeon and frequent Oprah guest Dr. Mehment Oz. When Oprah again took the stage to thank the crowd for giving of themselves, Lefevre stood proud wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "No More Homeless Pets."

Getting kisses

Back at the Best Friends tent, a line formed at the doggy kissing booth, where people made a donation to Best Friends in return for a kiss from one of the therapy dogs present. Manning the booth was "DogTown" star and Best Friends animal behavior consultant Sherry Woodard.

"It was great," Woodard said afterwards. "People were handing over $20s and even a $50," though the suggested donation was only $1.

After a couple of hours, people had donated a total of $1,100 at the doggy kissing booth.

As a line formed at the kissing booth, another formed at a table where Garcia was signing and handing out dozens of copies of the companion book "DogTown." Later songstresses Case and Harris sat together at the same table with Garcia to hand out signed copies of the CD "Giving Animals a Voice Through Music: The Best Friends 25th Anniversary Collection," to which both contributed songs.

Meanwhile Lefevre took to the thoroughfare in front of the tent and got those passing by to sign the pledge to adopt and not purchase their next pet. In return, the signatories received a free "No More Homeless Pets" bracelet produced by I’m Tired Of especially for the Live Your Best Life Walk and donated to Best Friends for the event. 335 people ended up signing the pledge.

One of those signatories was Jeanne Kilmer Chadee.

"I came from Pennsylvania to walk for the best and largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the world," said Chadee, who stopped by the tent thrilled to see and meet Garcia.

New Yorker Linda Lindenfelser brought her friend Pat Bregio to the tent so Bregio could get acquainted with Best Friends. "The vastness of [Best Friends’] reach and the beautiful living areas you give animals" is why, she said, she was compelled to come to the Walk and introduce her friend to our organization.

Locals Lee and Lily Davis brought their therapy rescue dog Chester to the Best Friends tent. "I wanted to help in any way I could," Lily said. "Any organization that helps shelter dogs find homes is an absolute necessity."

Organizer of Best Friends’ activities during the Live Your Best Life Weekend was Greta Palmer.

"Even though it was bitterly cold out, our supporters still made the trek here to show how they feel about the work we do and the lives we save," Palmer said. "We couldn’t ask for more dedication."

Written by Ted Brewer

Photos by Sarah Ause