by Jenn Goad
Reporter
jenn@kokomoherald.com

Barktober Fest is back in 2017 with a new format. The event was originally held as a fun family day in the park, but due to its growing popularity and the Kokomo Humane Society’s (KHS) new building project, it was time to add a layer to the day.

“We’d like to turn this into more of a fundraiser which I think is possible,” said KHS Executive Director Karen Wolfe. “We are at the point now where the building project is about $400,000 short of what we need.”

Barktober Fest now will feature a 5K walk from Foster Park to the intersection of the new building (Hoffer and Home) via the Industrial Heritage Trail.

“We’ve turned it into a 5K, which is kind of fun because I’ve walked this a lot from Foster Park to our new site,” Wolfe said. “Walkers will have access to doggie poop bags, restrooms, and there will be water along the way.”

The cost of the walk is $10 per participant, and Wolfe said those who raise $30 will earn a KHS canvas bag. Ideally, Wolfe hopes each walker will be able to get 10 $10 sponsorships. The individual sponsorships are similar to other walks, where friends and family members contribute to the participant. 

The money raised will go toward KHS’s outreach program and the medical fund, with a portion going to the new building fund.

The walk has been extended an hour (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) to account for the longer walking distance. Those who cannot make the walk from downtown to the new building site will be able to walk their distance around Foster Park as many times as they would like.

Throughout the day, flu shots from Walgreens will be given to those who want them, vendors will be on hand, and Pappy’s Kitchen food truck will be on site.

The event is set up as a walk to help avoid mass chaos with any animals that participate in the day. Wolfe said that the dogs that come must be friendly and at least 4 months old for the safety of the animal.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three individual fundraisers and also to the top team. For the individual contributors, the top three individual fund raisers will be able to choose their prize. The prizes are four tickets to Ales for Tails, two tickets to Beef and Boards, or a pet portrait from a local artist.

The top team will earn a pizza party from Hot Box Pizza.

In addition, each participant will receive a coupon for a $10 microchip at KHS.

“If your animal hasn’t been microchipped, you can get one of the coupons, bring the pet here before a certain date, and get the microchip for $10 as opposed to $25,” Wolfe said. 

Microchipping used to take place during the event, but with its growth, it was not feasible to continue on event day.

Another fundraising opportunity Wolfe would like to see participants and the general public participate in is the use of an app called “Walk your dog” by WoofTrax. The app charts a walk, and for those who select KHS, approximately 3 cents per mile will be donated to the society. 

Wolfe said that Barktober Fest is a great event for a lot of reasons. Monetary donations, which are always helpful, come in. The shelter is always in need of canned dog and cat food, that gets put into the community food bank. She said that food is distributed to those who might be struggling to feed their pets.

“We’d rather help people keep their pets by giving them food if they’re having a hard time rather than us taking them in,” she said.

Donations of blankets, towels, soap, and other items on the KHS wish list are appreciated, as well. Wolfe said that any material donation made is something the society won’t have to purchase down the road.

Volunteers also are needed in a variety of areas, from helping clean cages of adoptable cats at Petco to walking dogs at the shelter.

“The more volunteers we have, the more we can do,” she said. “We have an enrichment program for the dogs. We get them out there and they play together. You get to know their personalities of the dogs so they’re easier to adopt. They are happier because they’ve had exercise and will be quieter in their kennel.”

Foster families are another group that is needed by KHS. 

“We are always looking for fosters. If you like cats, March through probably October/November, we need fosters for kittens. It’s a fun thing to do. It’s a short-term commitment. If they’re 6 weeks and we need them to be 8 weeks and two pounds, you get to play with kittens for two weeks. You can take in a momma with kittens, and it’s an 8 to 10-week commitment. There are lots of opportunities, and we are willing to work with people to fit what they need. We supply food and litter,” said Wolfe. “We do get puppies so if people want to foster those, the quicker they get out of the shelter atmosphere the better because they’ll be socialized better in a home and healthier in a home. We needthese people at all times. There are all sorts of need. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, this is a great one, and we really need that.”

She said it will be great to see all of the pet families and supporters walking through town. Those wishing to register can do so online at http://kokomohumane.org/pages/barktober+fest/26. Anyone wishing to be a vendor should call the Humane Society for availability. Spots are $15, and vendors will need to provide their own materials and tables for the day.

A raffle and pet photography also will take place during the event. The photos are free, but donations will be accepted.

There will be several contests available for pets and owners, including recognition for Best Kisser, Best Shedder, Longest Tail, Costume Contest, Dog-Owner look-a-Like, and Best Trick. 

The Kokomo Humane Society receives roughly 3,200 animals into their care during the year. Many are considered healthy and adoptable, but others need additional care. The proceeds from the event will benefit the animals brought to the shelter by way of medical assistance, sheltering needs, and help to promote the health and well-being of animals.