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HEA celebrating 15 years with events

By Lee Reinsch

ASHWAUBENON – A decade and a half ago, college student Amanda Reitz of Ashwaubenon founded Happily Ever After (HEA) Animal Sanctuary.

It’s been a family affair ever since.

To mark its 15th anniversary, Happily Ever After is hosting a series of events for animal lovers, from snuggle hours to a top dog competition.

“We’re calling it 15 years of HEArt,” Marcus Reitz, the operation’s public relations director and brother of the founder, said.

HEA is a no-kill shelter, whose adoptions come with a lifetime guarantee: If the animal doesn’t work out for whatever reason, HEA will take it back.

In addition to a larger number of adoptions in 2020 than the previous year, last year’s return rate was lower than in 2019.

July 22: Rescue Story

Events for the 15 Years of HEArt celebrations kick off Thursday, July 22, with a free showing of the film, “Rescue Story: Saving Companion Animals,” from 7-8:45 p.m. at Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center, 2391 S. Ridge Road (adjacent to Ashwaubenon High School).

The movie, filmed in late 2019 before the pandemic’s onset by a team of filmmakers from Florida, features HEA as it travels to Texas to pick up a dog named Milo for rehoming.

Bring Kleenex.

July 23-24: Hour of Love

From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 23-24, it’s the third annual Hour of Love snuggle event (houroflove.org).

Visitors can sign up to cuddle a cat or a dog for 60 minutes.

It’s free.

All that’s asked of snugglers are they post photos, videos or text on their social media platforms and urge friends and family to make a contribution to HEA.

Reitz said the suggested amount for each snuggler to strive for is $100.

“What we do to make asking for help easier – because nobody really loves running around asking for money – is we have a matching platform, so they say ‘if you give $20, it becomes X,’ and this is 2-for-1, so $1 = $3, $10 becomes $30,” Reitz said.

Saturday after the day’s events, dogs and their people are invited to Zambaldi’s in Allouez for Yappy Hour, from 6-9 p.m.

Aug. 20: Country music at EPIC

On Friday, Aug. 20, country artist Tyler Rich with Mandi Sagal will put on a fundraising concert at EPIC Event Center, 2351 Holmgren Way.

Rich lives in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Sagal is a Bay Port graduate who moved to Nashville at age 18 to pursue her music.

Sagal recently released her first single, called “Smoke Your Weed.”

Sagal has helped HEA with fundraising efforts previously and adopted one of its cats a few years ago.

Tickets for the concert are $25 and $40.

Sept. 11: NEW Top Dog – Coolest Dog

From Sept. 11 to Oct. 16, HEA teams up with Oshkosh Mid-Morning Kiwanis and animal shelters in five other communities for the NEW Top Dog – Coolest Dog contest (newtopdog.com).

Communities vote for their top 10 dogs.

Dogs that are top vote-getters win a package valued at $1,000 and get to work with a local brewer to have a beer named for them or be in their marketing materials.

The top dog of all the dogs wins $2,000 in cash prizes, and their local shelter wins $5,000.

The entry fee to upload a dog photo is $10, and each vote costs $1.

Fifty cents from every vote goes to the shelter, and 50 cents goes to the Kiwanis.

HEA’s partner brewer is Zambaldi.

“It’s a cool way to raise money to help animals and kids,” Reitz said.

Sept. 18: Pet walk

Sept. 18 is Steps for Pets, HEA’s eighth annual pet walk (stepsforpets.org) at Meadowbrook Park in Howard.

It’s free to attend, and registration opens in early August.

HEA hopes to raise $150,000.

It’s crucial this year because the organization lost out on several planned fundraising events due to the pandemic, including the annual Beer & Biscuits, which represents a loss of $45,000.

“We’ll spend more than $100,000 on health care for the 900-plus cats and dogs that we’ll help throughout 2021,” Reitz said. “We want each adopted pet to have a long, happy and healthy life.”

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