Home for the Holidays

Local ‘celebrities’ locked in shelter kennels to raise funds

Kim Aisthorpe cuddles a pair of kittens during the Home for the Holidays Kennel Lock-Up Fundraiser for the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter Wednesday. She was one of 20 local celebrities who raised bail money to get out of the kennel — or had people pledge money to keep them in “jail.” Each human participant could choose to hang out with cats or with dogs — or if they had the time, both. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

GWINN — Kim Aisthorpe has participated in a number of fundraisers for the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter — including some using her photography skills — but Wednesday’s event was different.

“This one gave a different perspective,” Aisthorpe said. “It shows how important it is to support UPAWS when it has a fundraiser.”

Wednesday’s event was called the Home for the Holidays Kennel Lock-Up Fundraiser. Aisthorpe and 19 other local “celebrities” raised bail money to get out of lock-up or had people pledge to keep them “behind bars,” right in the kennels with UPAWS cats and dogs at the shelter, which is located along M-553 between Marquette and Gwinn.

The participants spent at least an hour in their kennel with Amber Talo, a UPAWS board member, as she stopped by each enclosure for a live feed on the shelter’s Facebook page.

This is the second time UPAWS has put on this kind of fundraiser, Talo said.

“Last year, a lot of traditional fundraisers for us and other groups were canceled because of the COVID-19 epidemic as they were deemed not safe,” she said. “That included our Cause for Paws fundraiser that always raises a ton of money.”

The lock-up raised a good chunk of money in 2020 and this year, the “keep them locked up” option brought even more public attention to the event. Celebrities were given about a month to raise funds with a continued push even after everyone was let out of their kennel.

“This fundraiser helps us keep running the operation here, but it’s also a chance to engage with the community and celebrate the bond between animal and human,” Talo said.

Aisthorpe said the human participants had a chance to see things from an animal’s viewpoint.

“They made it really comfortable for us and the kennels at UPAWS are great,” Aisthorpe said. “You can see up close how important the work UPAWS does.”

The human participants were chosen from nominations made by the community at large.

“We were looking for known faces and community activism, not just for UPAWS but for other charities,” Talo said. “We reached out to the nominees and most said yes right away.”

Last year’s lockup far exceeded the goal of $10,000, bringing in $25,000. This year’s total — along with the identity of the celebrity raising the most money — will be released this afternoon.

“I know this year, we had a lot of people at home watching us as we did a lot of promo video,” Talo said. “I think that really amped up the fun.”

All of this is to help UPAWS to continue helping homeless animals.

“We do everything we can to give each animal a second chance to be loved, to have a home of their own,” Talo said.

Those who missed the lock-up fundraiser can support UPAWS by making a donation through its website at upaws.org or by shopping at its Christmas season store at the Westwood Mall in Marquette.

The UPAWS Holiday store is open Wednesday and Friday, noon-5 p.m.; Thursday, noon-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net.


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