The Rapidian

Annual dog wash benefits grief organization

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids put on the “World’s Largest Dog Wash” for the 13th year last Sunday, drawing in all forms of dogs and owners. Admission and other proceeds went to assist the club’s Children’s Cancer and Grief Program.

Gilda's Club

Gilda's Club provides counciling for people affected by cancer and grief

For more info visit their website.

/Nicholas Garbaty

The smell of wet dog wafted over the stands of Fifth Third Ballpark on Sunday, adding to the ambiance of its own Dog Days game. That was thanks to Gilda’s Club’s “World’s Largest Dog Wash,” a benefit for its youth programs, which happened during the day in the stadium’s parking lot.

For a $10 donation, owners were treated with a hose bath and towel dry for their dogs, grooming and gift bags. In addition, activities like bandana decorating, a photo booth and a dog/owner look-alike contest provided extra fun.

“It’s just kind of a fun day filled with activities,” says Ashley Owen, the development and events lead coordinator for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. “We also have vendors set up to do different pet services, give aways treats and coupons and things like that. No shortage of things to do.”

Thirteen years ago, Cody Kropf, a former member of the club’s youth program, started the dog wash as a fundraiser for the club after his father passed away from cancer. 

“I wanted to give back to Gilda’s Club because they helped me get through all the hard times of cancer,” Kropf says. “I decided a dog wash sounded pretty good. It was due time for my dog to take a bath, so why not have a fundraiser for Gilda’s club at the same time?”

The initial event took place in the parking lot of Gilda’s Club and the goal was set at $50, according to Owen. After the dust cleared, Kropf had raised $1600. Now, with more than 300 dogs coming out a year, Kropf thinks the event will continue to grow.

“The volunteers will sign up the next day after this dog wash for next year,” Kropf says. “I just love how much it’s become and how much it’s helping the youth group.”

While the youth program benefits the most from the event, others involved with the event benefit as well. Cordell Zachery, a student at Grand Valley State University, and his fraternity brothers came to volunteer at the event to obtain volunteer hours and moreover to help out Gilda’s Club. 

“College students don’t realize how many activities and volunteer service things [there are] besides building houses and cleaning up streets,” Zachery says. “There’s stuff like this where we can really help out and make a difference.”

Betsy Zielinski and her dog Harlo came from the Detroit area to visit her mother in Grand Rapids. After picking up a flier for the event and realizing Harlo smelled, she says, she decided to go to the park on Sunday.

Besides the wash, Zielinski thought supporting the cause and having Harlo meet other dogs were important factors as well. 

“When there’s any opportunity like this where there’s a lot of other [dogs], especially for a big dog like this, they need a lot of socialization,” Zielinski says. “Anybody I know who has a dog, I’ll tell them about it.”

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