BY JAMES RUSSELL
TRAVERSE CITY —
Northwood Animal Hospital staffers literally jumped at the chance to help Cherryland Humane Society.
News broke this year that the shelter faced financial difficulties, so veterinarian Jennifer Klabunde and her staff organized a September fundraiser dubbed Parachuting for Paws, in which participants jumped out of an airplane.
"We thought it'd be a fun way to raise money, make people take notice, and make people donate something," Klabunde said.
Jumpers and sponsors together raised $1,000 for Cherryland.
"This was just a way to give back," Klabunde said. "I think they give a lot to our community. If they weren't there, those animals would be euthanized. Cherryland is finding them fantastic homes."
Northwood's fundraiser was one of many organized by groups this year to keep Cherryland open. The shelter announced in June that it faced "critical financial difficulties" and needed $200,000 to keep operating through the end of the year.
Cherryland exceeded that goal by more than $10,000, Executive Director Mike Cherry said.
"It's just overwhelming. It's phenomenal to see the response, especially when the economy is down," Cherry said. "You can see how people really love pets."
Cherry said the economic downturn limited donations in the first half of 2011, but once the call for help went out, the community responded in force. Donations came from individuals and groups like Northwood that organized fundraisers for the shelter. Others, like the Lagina Family Foundation, matched $20,000 in contributions, and Traverse Motors, with help from an anonymous donor, gave Cherryland a new cargo van.
"The cargo van allows us to transport animals, which is really the crux of the program for getting animals spayed or neutered before they leave here," Cherry said.
Other fundraising efforts included a calendar created by a women's group to raise money, and cookie sales by a 9-year-old girl that banked more than $1,000 for Cherryland.
"The fact is that there were some very creative things done to help the Humane Society," Cherry said.
Cherryland is now in good shape going into 2012. Cherry said the agency intends to cut expenses by adding more volunteers, and future fundraising efforts already are in the planning stages; they plan to start the new year on much sounder financial footing.
Klabunde said it was a chance to give back to an organization that fills an important community role.
"It's important for veterinary hospitals to find new and creative ways to raise money for places that are supporting us. Without Cherryland, we'd see fewer clients, and have fewer patients," Klabunde said. "We can't let it close. That's just something that can't happen."