Walkers will raise money for Sophie’s Circle and honor a pet they have lost.
Dana Conway, of Ormond Beach, didn’t want to hear about the rainbow bridge when her beloved dog, Mr. Big, died in Feb., 2014.
“A million people told me about it,” she said. “I didn’t want to hear about some bridge. I had just lost my best friend.”
In the story, after a person goes to heaven, they walk across the rainbow bridge to pick up their pet that has been waiting for them.
Conway and other volunteers have been telling a lot of people about a rainbow bridge lately. The Granada Bridge will light up like a rainbow on March 21, when hundreds of people are expected to walk their dogs across it with lighted leashes.
The Rainbow Bridge Walk is a chance for participants to honor the memory of a pet they’ve lost, and also raise money for Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue. The charity provides pet food to people who are financially challenged and places dogs in foster homes until they can be adopted.
The fee to participate in the Rainbow Bridge Walk is $10. Walkers will meet at 6 p.m. at Cassan Park at the southwest corner of the bridge and will receive a “Once by my side, Forever in my Heart” T-shirt, a rainbow colored light-up leash and water. Dogs will receive a treat. Before the event, participants receive a sponsor sheet so they can collect donations for how many times they walk the bridge.
Conway said she’s going to write Mr. Big’s name on her shirt and others can do the same.
As of March 6, 250 people had already signed up the event. The news has spread through social media and many people have posted pictures and stories of the pets they’ve lost on the Rainbow Bridge Walk Facebook page.
“It’s beautiful,” Conway said.
The idea for the walk came from Conway and fellow volunteer Jennifer Popowich, of Palm Coast, while discussing ways to help the charity.
“We’ve all had dogs we’ve lost and wanted to do something to honor them,” Conway said. “How much more beautiful can it be than lighting up the bridge?”
They have experienced a few difficulties. They ordered the leashes from China, and their credit card company put the card on hold because it thought the China purchase was suspicious. They also found it difficult to call and talk to a person at the Chinese company.
Later, they had a hard time finding a place to meet, because the walk is the same day as the Native American Festival, but the city is letting them meet at Cassan Park. But, they often have to solve problems in their duties of rescuing and finding homes for dogs.
“We’re used to working under a high level of stress,” Popowich said.
Kathy Blackman operated Sophie’s Circle in Daytona Beach for several years, and it is now located in New Smyrna Beach.
“This is the biggest fund raiser we’ve ever had,” Blackman said.
She helps about 500 families per month and said it’s the only pet food pantry in the county. Her rule is that every pet must be spayed and neutered and she checks paperwork to verify it. This keeps home pet breeders from benefiting, she said.
Conway works to place dogs in foster homes and eventually adopt them out.
“Every time we rescue a dog, I hope Big is looking down at me and smiling,” she said.