By Hayley Crandall
Happy Endings, the oldest Milwaukee-based no-kill cat shelter, started a virtual 30-mile run fundraiser cutely named “Catnip Crawl” earlier this month as a social distancing friendly solution to raise money.
The “race” is completely online and participant contributions can be through running, biking, or even just walking. All activity is tracked through available fitness apps or devices.
“You can do it any time you want from anywhere you want,” said Darlene Rager Happy Endings president and media relations. “It’s 30 miles over the course of six weeks. Someone walking their dog twice a day could make it.”
The fundraiser complies with social distancing guidelines by being completely up to the individual on how much effort to put in, even if part of a team. Registering as a team just combines the miles completed with partnered competitors.
Happy Endings’ operation depends a lot on donations and events, according to Rager. Ninety percent of the cats the organization sees have never been to the vet, meaning the shelter picks up the cost of treatments and vaccinations before pairing them with a forever home. That can put a strain on the shelter financially, especially since they make adoption prices on the lower end.
So, when the pandemic hit and stay-at-home orders went into place, the shelter needed a reasonable alternative to stay afloat.
“We are all volunteers and all donation run,” said Rager. “Losing events is a real hit for us, so, I was trying to think of ways you can social distance and still be able raise funds, but not be so outrageous that people without jobs can’t participate.”
By happenstance, Rager was looking into her junk emails where she kept seeing a solicitation about a local virtual run. At first, she brushed it off, but as times began to get tougher, her perspective changed. Inspired by the concept and from seeing everyone out and about all the time, Rager decided to host it for the shelter.
“The one thing that really made me pursue this is as everyone was quarantined and working from home, I saw everyone out walking,” said Rager. “The gyms are closed so they’re out and about looking for things to do, so, if they’re already out doing it why not just log it in and contribute to a good cause at the same time.”
There are currently around 40 active participants with some still signing up, and Rager’s hope is to recruit 100 people. Sign-ups can be completed on their Charity Footprints event page or by using the link on The Happy Endings website.
General registration is $25. VIP registration is $35 and includes a handmade bracelet with a “Catnip Crawl” medal. Onlookers can also put money on active participants as another means to donate.
The “race” runs until Monday, June 15. Happy Endings shelter plans to reopen Thursday, May 28 with protective measures in place to keep both volunteers and customers safe.