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HSDC’s Paws in the Park and Clemmons Rotary TOAST kick off the Festival of Lights

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Two local charities, the Clemmons Rotary and the Humane Society of Davie County (HSDC) officially began the holiday season with strolls through Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights. Beginning Sunday, the Clemmons Rotary’s event, the Totally Outstanding Awesome Stroll through Tanglewood (TOAST) allowed families to come view the much-anticipated Festival of Lights for the first time of the season while enjoying face painting, games, food trucks and hot chocolate.

The Clemmons Rotary utilized this fun event to support charities that it champions throughout the year. Rotarian Brad Davis mentions, “TOAST has really become a full-circle event for us. We are allowed to utilize a beautiful venue, bring groups of volunteers together to serve the community, and provide a great evening for our attendees all while putting the proceeds right back into the community. We feel very fortunate for the opportunity to serve and look forward to growing the event in years to come.”

HSDC offered Paws in the Park (PIP) for two nights, Nov. 11 and 12, for families wanting to bring their furry family members and humans while walking over a mile through the lights and festivities of Tanglewood Park. With food trucks galore, iHeart Radio, a variety of vendors for pre-holiday shopping, and of course, Santa Paws, the proceeds raised in ticket sales benefit the animals of HSDC.

Eleven years ago, Davie County’s euthanasia rate was more than 90%. In 2017, HSDC began a partnership with Davie County Animal Services to serve as the adoption arm for the county to help lower that rate. In 2018, Davie County’s euthanasia rate dropped below 20%. HSDC is taking on a bold challenge of saving even more, and striving to help the county get to 10 in 20, meaning no-kill by 2020. “Events like Paws in the Park are absolutely critical for us,” explains Michelle Graska, HSDC secretary of the board of directors and chairwoman of PIP. “We do not receive government funding and rely solely on private donations and grants. We depend on community partners to help us fund medical expenses, provide basic care of the animals, and support our low cost spay and neuter program. We also do monthly transports to rescues in other states where spay/neuter laws are much more stringent, thus, making more space in our shelter.”

Two community partners that understand the importance of making a difference are fourth-grade elementary students from Shady Grove — Skylar Zuleger and Gabrielle McFarlin. They raised $1,570 to become silver sponsors for Paws in the Park making them both the highest PIP event sponsor and the youngest. “We found both of our dogs at the Humane Society and were really inspired by what a difference I could make because they made our lives so happy,” explains Zuleger when asked what motivated her to go out on her weekend to raise funds for HSDC. “I hope this money helps provide medicine and food for the animals who need it most.” Co-sponsor, Gabrielle McFarlin confirms, “I love animals so much and I wanted to be able to help them in any way I can.”

With generous and philanthropic hearts, the festive participants officially kicked off the holiday season at Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights for 2019-2020.