MIDLOTHIAN — Pull out the leashes, shine the collars and grab those walking shoes because the third annual Bark for Life of Ellis County event is back for a tail-wagging good time.
Bark for Life of Ellis County celebrates cancer survivors, honors those who have been lost to cancer and helps fundraise to find a cure for the disease by providing community members to become empowered through their canine partnerships. The event takes place Saturday, April 1 in Midlothian.
“Bark for life was created to honor the lifelong contributions of our canine caregivers,” stated Laurie Reynolds, lead coordinator at Bark for Life of Ellis County. “This is a super fun, family event for parents, kids, and dogs.”
Partnered with the American Cancer Society, the Ellis County community and its loyal canine companions can enjoy a fun-filled day that begins with a 3K run or walk.
“It’s a non-competitive fun run or walk. Registration is $40 and that includes an event t-shirt, event bandana for the dog and goodie bag that’s filled with things from the Bark For Life sponsors. We want kids and dogs to be involved, so it’s just fun for everyone,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds added that she knows all too well the meaning of canine friendship when it comes to her personal story.
“I am a breast cancer survivor myself. I’m nine years cancer-free,” Reynolds disclosed. “Ranger, my lab, was very young when I first got him. If you know anything about labs, they’re crazy for about the first two to three years, and when I had my surgery, he was only at a year and a half. After my nine-hour surgery, and later released from the hospital and came home, I was nervous because my dog was a little crazy.
“But when I walked in, he just knew. It was like a switch went off, he was calm, and he stayed by my side. In the presence of my dog, there was nothing I felt awkward about; he wouldn’t care if I lost an arm, leg, or all my hair, that’s the most special quality about a dog. They love you unconditionally."
She also credits Ranger to be more than a pet, but a life-long support, as he stayed with her through the thick and thin of chemo treatments and the healing process.
“That’s why I jumped on to lead Bark for Life because I had a canine caregiver, and I had to do it. Ranger sparked a passion in me that I didn’t know I had,” Reynolds included.
Starting in August 2016, Reynolds was asked to lead this year’s Bark for Life. She began by pulling together a hardworking committee in preparation for the biggest canine event Midlothian has ever witnessed.
“I started planning in August and we’ve been working hard. We brought on some newbies to our committee this year and I think that’s what made the difference because every time you bring in someone who hasn’t done it before, they see something different and they challenge themselves and want to do it really good. They went out there and did it, and they are absolutely wonderful,” she complimented her team.
According to Reynolds, there is also a new addition to the event this year.
“I added an event this year. It’s called 'Bark After Dark,' and it’ll be a barbecue dinner that's catered by The Vault Smokehouse. We’re going to have beer and wine available with live music and an auction,” Reynolds explained. “That’ll be just for the adults, no kids or canines. It's $35 a ticket which includes dinner and drinks, and it’s going to be great.”
For those uninterested in a fun run, there is also an impressive array of auction items for Friday night, which includes a glider ride paired with a gourmet dinner, a hot air balloon ride, half side of organic pork, an iron-rod fire pit filled with camping gear, and much more.
With the bustling Saturday party quickly approaching, Reynolds said the imagination is the limit when it comes to what to expect.
“Our opening ceremony will include Mayor [Bill Houston] opening with an invocation. We have a soldier coming up to present the colors and all the survivors that are present, we hope will join in, and walk behind the soldier with their dogs to present the colors. After that, the Midlothian drill team, the Pantherettes, are going to perform for us – and that’ll kick off our 3K walk,” Reynolds excitedly explained.
From door prizes to games and live demonstrations, this year’s Bark for Life invites the community of Ellis County to join in on the fun.
“This field is going to be filled up with vendors. I currently have 56 vendors. We’ve never had more than 12. I went out and walked the field the other day to measure how many booths I could fit, and we’re full all the way down to the fence, with two rows and across the back. It’s going to be huge,” Reynolds exclaimed.
Reynolds also noted the vendors range from small businesses to live bands and kid-friendly activates.
“The Sheriff’s department is coming with their canines and are going to do a demonstration. We have the Dog Training Club of Dallas County, the Easter Bunny will be here for pictures, Panther Pam will also be here, and a photo booth in addition to that,” Reynolds listed. “We’ll have a jail and Deputy Dog who is going to be our sheriff. We’ve got an all-day DJ and Stephanie MC, and activates for kids, like games, face painting, and caricatures.
“And we’ll also have games and contests for the dogs, like ‘musical sit,’ it’s like musical chairs, but when the music stops, the last dog to sit is out. It’s really a fun game. We’ll have costume contests, peanut butter contest, bobbing for hot dogs, and so much more."
In addition to the festive competitions, Paws for Reflection Ranch will provide a petting zoo, while a few animal shelters present their adoptable canines to the public.
“We’ll have three rescues coming, Waxahachie’s Street to Sheets, Heart of Texas Animal Rescue, and Ellis County SPCA will be out here as well,” Reynolds added. “And we’re going to showcase each dog individually on the ‘green carpet. Each rescue is going to give a short bio about the dogs up for adoption, and we’ll have the MC showcase them on the green carpet.”
Reynolds plans to end on an honoring note with they loyal companions standing by the side of their owners.
“We’re going to sell helium balloons so participants can write their names, their dog's names or whoever they want to honor, and we’ll release them all at one time,” Reynolds disclosed. “It’s to honor someone who may have been lost to cancer or if a family member is currently battling cancer, you’re a survivor, or maybe you just want to put your dog's name on there because he’s done so much for you, like mine.
“We’ve had a great year this year for support. Anything that’s new, and that’s annual can typically take a while to take off. This year, it has literally exploded, because usually, we’re begging people to be a vendor or sponsor, but this year businesses were seeking us out. This is taking off. The community support has been off the charts, and I’m so excited about it!"
As for this year, Bark for Life is determined to “take a bite out of cancer and bark for life,” Reynolds said as she finished with a smile.
Bark After Dark will be held at the Midlothian Civic Center, located at 224 South 11th Street, Midlothian. The adult-only gathering will be Friday, March 31 from 7-10 p.m., with tickets priced at $35.
Bark for Life of Ellis County will be held at the Midlothian Civic Center, located 224 South 11th Street, Midlothian. The festivities kick off Saturday, April 1 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. with a registration fee of $40.
To connect with Bark for Life, visit relayforlife.org/barkelliscountytx or visit facebook.com/barkforlifeelliscounty.
Chelsea Groomer @ChelseaGroomer