On any given Friday afternoon across America, most of us are likely to utter a variation of the same phrase: "Have a great weekend!" A good weekend may be one in which we are able to relax, but I believe that a truly great weekend is one in which something meaningful is accomplished. By that standard, thousands of Americans started April with an amazing weekend during which they saved animals through the ASPCA's first-ever "Mega Match-a-thon."
Professionals and volunteers at animal shelters and rescue organizations recognize that weekends are of prime importance for the adoptable animals in their care, as potential adopters are more likely to look for companion animals to adopt on days or at times when they do not have to work. Some creative people who work on the ASPCA's Community Outreach team spend a lot of time brainstorming ways to create excitement around animal adoption events. This year, they proposed and implemented a dramatic idea: concurrent Mega Match-a-thon events to be held throughout the country, which would be subsidized by the ASPCA to support high-volume community adoption events. We encouraged coalitions between or among shelters, rescues, and spay/neuter clinics that would maximize the number of adoptions.
The ASPCA granted nearly $500,000 to be shared among 53 animal welfare organizations. Each grant recipient had made a thoughtful proposal detailing how it would use the funds we provided to create successful weekend adoption events. The Mega Match-a-thon weekend was a huge success, since 6,144 homeless animals found loving homes. Participants reached out to their local media, spread the word to their supporters through social media and showcased the amazing animals they have up for adoption. And over the three-day event, animal welfare groups got together and saved a record number of lives.
Happy stories poured into us throughout the weekend adoption event:
• Riverside County Department of Animal Services in Riverside, California, adopted out 400 animals over the weekend;
• At the Heartland SPCA event, one little boy sat on the floor talking through the holes in his new cat's cardboard carrier as his dad filled out adoption paperwork; his new cat was one of the 273 animals adopted that weekend at the Heartland SPCA;
• Staff and volunteers at Bangor Humane Society in Bangor, Maine closed up early and went home after running out of animals, including a cute white rat named Stewie;
• Columbia, Missouri's Mega Match-a-thon event got an extra boost from the oldest volunteer, 96-year-old Wilma Bader, who helped No-Kill Columbia prep for the event by clipping color-coded Meet Your MatchTM adopter passes;
• The Humane Society for Southwest Washington in Vancouver, Washington broke its own record for the most adoptions (44) in a single day within the first two hours of its event;
• Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, Maine sped the adoptions process along -- and got more animals into homes -- with the use of iPad® devices by its adoptions counselors;
• Seven area shelters teamed up at the Washington Animal Rescue League, and their collaboration resulted in 83 animals being adopted in the first three hours alone;
• Tree House Humane Society adopted out 26 cats in 26 hours;
• While dogs at the Asheville Humane Society waited for humans to adopt them, they enjoyed frozen, peanut-butter-n-biscuit-stuffed dog toys;
• Rubbles, a 12-year-old blind Shih Tzu, was adopted from the Humane Society of Greater Miami in Miami, Florida by a local soldier, and as soon as Rubbles got to his new home, his proud dad shared photos of Rubbles finding his way to the kitchen; and
• Wisconsin Humane Society spent a lot of time preparing for its 24-hour adoption event, including posting a Paw-jama Puppy Parade on its website; their hard work paid off with 156 animals adopted during the event, and you can watch a video about their event here.
While the immediate and wonderful result of the Mega Match-a-thon events held throughout the country was the thousands of lives saved that weekend, the excitement these events elicited in their communities will hopefully lead to an enduring legacy of more people saving lives by adopting homeless animals in their local shelters.