by Jennifer Wilson and photography by Two Eagles Marcus
It’s an afternoon filled with sinister clouds and London-like drizzle in Grand Rapids and I find myself in one of the most beautiful homes in the city — sitting around a table chatting with Laurel Pruski and Cathy Bissell. The conversation is so lively and the laughter so frequent you don’t even notice it feels like October in June. These incredible ladies have a mission at hand. They are the co-chairs for the upcoming BISSELL Blocktail Party®.
The BISSELL Blocktail Party® is a fundraising event founded in 2005 by a group of animal advocates to support local animal welfare organizations in west Michigan. Every year this celebration of adopted pets grows bigger and better. This year will be no exception.
According to Cathy Bissell, “It’s the party you can bring your best friend to.” She has three best friends – DJ, KC, and Roxy – her beloved black labs. Laurel Pruski smiles endearingly and agrees. Her boxer/pit mix, Elsie, and yellow lab, Ace, are veteran tail waggers at this event.
What’s even more exciting this year? There will be 10 different animal welfare agencies benefiting from the proceeds of the festivities instead of just one. Great news for community organizations in west Michigan whose mission is to protect and find forever homes for our most vulnerable animals.
“We are honored to be involved as a ‘Party Partner’ for this year’s Blocktail Party! Events like this are vital to our organization and help supply the funds we need to provide food, shelter, medical care and enrichment activities to the 5,000 homeless pets that come through our doors each year,” explains Nicole Cook, marketing coordinator for the Humane Society of West Michigan. She adds, “The money raised through this event will allow us to increase adoptions, educational programming, and our foster program. We are very excited for Blocktail and we look forward to meeting even more animal supporters in our community!”
Other ‘Party Partners’ involved with this year’s event are:
- Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary
- Carol’s Ferals
- Focus on Ferals
- Safe Haven Humane Society
- Community Spay Neuter Initiative (C-SNIP)
- Kent County Animal Shelter
- Vicky’s Pet Connection
- Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue
- Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary
If that’s not enough, the silent auction is back again this year with some glorious items for you to bid on including; a 7-day Costa Rican tropical vacation, an exclusive automobile lease from Sharpe BMW, and the must-have Apple iPad.
“We couldn’t do this without the community,” explains Pruski. Bissell also jumps in to add, “The sponsors this year have been very generous.” They note, it takes more than sponsors. It’s the supporters, the attendees, the charities and most of all, the volunteers. The event committee is made up of some of the communities most passionate animal ambassadors. This all-women phenomenon group is led by Bissell and Pruski, and also includes:
- Kerry Akred, St. Mary’s Home Care
- Veronica Dainelis, BISSELL Inc.
- Leah Elenbaas, BISSELL Inc.
- Heather Garbaty, Keller Williams Realty
- Linda LaFontsee, LaFontsee Galleries
- Michelle Lynch, BISSELL Inc.
- Loretta Towne, Grand Rapids Public Museum
- Amanda Parrish, BISSELL Inc.
- Meahgan Pear, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore
- Shannon Reincke, Doubledog Design
- Rosalyn Russell, BISSELL Inc.
- Samantha Searl, Griffin Properties
- Kristie Swan, Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa
- Dr. Wendy Swift, Ottawa Animal Hospital
- Trish Taylor, BISSELL Inc.
- Karen Olson-Van Horn, Fifth Third Bank
The word ‘passionate’ doesn’t really do this group justice. They treat their pets like family members. “Although I don’t allow my dogs up on our furniture, they do have their own beds around the house,” chuckles Bissell. “And, I can be seen cuddling with them in theirs, rather than mine.” Pruski, on the other hand, allows her Elsie and Ace up on the couch to join her for television and reading time and takes them in her car to as many places she can. Best friend or family member, these women love their pets.
They are diligent, too, in their efforts to ensure you know that adoption is the way to go. Here’s why. The American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recently discovered five out of 10 dogs and seven out of 10 cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them. A disturbing fact that makes this cause even more important to our community. You can help! Here’s how…
Laurel and Cathy invite you to come on out to the BISSELL Blocktail Party® on Wednesday, June 13 at Mangiamo’s. Is your dog adopted? Be sure to tell a Blocktail volunteer at the event, because they will have a special bandana for your dog. Join them! It’s an excellent evening lounging on the lawn with people and their pets, food and wine, and prizes and doggie bags – all to support the animals needing homes in West Michigan.
To learn more about the BISSELL Blocktail Party® and to order tickets online, visit the event website at http://www.bissellblocktailparty.com. You can also find additional information at www.facebook.com/bissellblocktailparty.
But before I bid these gracious women adieu, I ask them to open their handbags and share the strangest item they find. The funny thing about women is that you never know what they are carrying around in their designer purses.
As we laugh and recall some things we’ve all carried in the last few weeks, Cathy pulls out a piece of the John Ball Park Zoo. She had attended a reception there for the opening of the new tree house. Laurel has a Blocktail flyer — not so odd really. And then digs a bit deeper to find cocktail napkins from an evening out. It could come in handy as our current weather conditions may bring on the sniffles.
We say our goodbyes and I’m excited to know that I’ll be seeing these powerhouse ladies again soon… on the lawn of Mangiamo’s at the BISSELL Blocktail Party® rain or shine!
Jennifer Wilson is editor-in-chief at Women’s Lifestyle Magazine as well as CEO at Grand Development Associates. She is an advocate of all things Grand Rapids and thrives on assisting nonprofit organizations to be their best.