Pitching for the Animals in the Gulf Coast

Recently, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, was host to a group of ladies, baseball caps in place, on a mission. The women are members of the Baseball Wives Charitable Foundation, a national nonprofit fraternal organization founded in 2006 by wives of major league baseball players, dedicated to helping communities in need across the country. Their mission on this trip to south Louisiana? To see, in person, the devastating effects of the BP oil spill, to learn how they could help, and to spread the word to others.

But on this trip, these ladies had a very specific population in mind: the companion animals of the Gulf Coast area.

"We went to see the Gulf Coast region first-hand, so that we could share our experiences and stories with our hometown media and with the media in the cities that we play/coach in," said Jill Borkowski, member of the Baseball Wives Charitable Foundation.

Borkowski and her husband are long-term members and supporters of Best Friends Animal Society, animal lovers, and pet parents to two dogs and two cats. She is also a volunteer with Humane Ohio, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Toledo.

"The media has4826928338 163ecbd450 m been giving a lot of attention to the plight of the communities hit hard by the effects of the spill," says Borkowski. "We wanted to learn and share the information about what is happening with the pets of those communities" families, and to offer a way for people to help."

The foundation representatives stayed very busy during their visit to the south Louisiana parish, visiting several hard-hit areas, including Plaquemines Parish. There they met and talked with folks with the Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), learning of the staggering increase in the number of pets being surrendered to shelters across the region due to the effects of the oil spill, primarily loss of income.

"The shelters there are being very pro-active." Borkowski said. "They are providing free pet food (donated by the PETCO Foundation), free spay/neuter and free heartworm preventative to fisherman and pet owners who have been affected by the oil spill, in an effort to help them keep their pets."

According to PAWS" estimates, nine of every ten dogs who come into their no-kill shelter is heartworm positive. "They're afraid that those people who do have their pets on heartworm preventative are going to skip it when their income is cut off or severely reduced," Borkowski said.

But PAWS and other animal welfare organizations in the area cannot do this work alone or on their already-stretched budgets.

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Baseball Wives Charitable Foundation was on hand as PetSmart Charities presented a check to PAWS for $7,500.

"It was a lucky twist of fate that one of our members is friends with someone who works for PetSmart Charities," says Borkowski. "When PetSmart Charities learned that we were headed down to see how we could help, they immediately wanted to know what they could do, as well. We were so pleased to be able to be there, when they presented the check to PAWS."

Returning home, the wives got busy, creating a way for people to reach out and help.

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"We set up a "text2give" account, where people can text the word "Restore" to 50555, and immediately a donation of $10 will be made to our donation account (the donation is billed to the donor"s cell phone account)," notes Borkowski." Fifty percent of the donations collected will be given to the National Audubon Society and we are in the process of determining which rescue groups or organizations to give the rest of the donations to."

Borkowski reported they will be determining what groups may not actually receive any assistance or compensation, such as claims checks from BP. "But all of the donations collected are going to help those in the Gulf Coast area."

The work of the wives is a great example of how individuals can help, a vital part in the efforts to assist families and their companion animals in the Gulf region.

What"s happening and more ways you can help:

The Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA) along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Best Friends Animal Society, and several local organizations have begun the LA SPCA Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program to provide services to families with companion animals, experiencing struggles and hard economic times, as a result of the oil spill.

Best Friends also recently assisted in getting 20 tons of dog food, donated by the Del Monte Foods, to the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter.

4827061212 404960593d mTo learn more about how you can help the companion animals and their families in the Gulf Coast, visit:

First Home Forever Home

The goal of the First Home Forever Home campaign is to help people make and honor a lifetime commitment to their pets. Millions of companion animals die every year in crowded shelters because their families decided to let them go for some reason. Through education, intervention and action, First Home Forever Home provides guidance and resources to help people care for their pets and keep them as loved members of their families. Eight to 10 million pets enter America"s shelter system every year. How many of them, if given a helping hand, could stay with their families instead?

By supporting the First Home Forever Home campaign you help us with projects such as this one to send food to New Orleans, and you help create a time of No More Homeless Pets.

Photos by Troy Snow, Jill Borkowski and courtesy of the Baseball Wives Charitable Foundation